TAMPA — When Melody Russell got home from work on Monday evening, something was very wrong.
The lights were on; the doors were open and her children’s Christmas presents were gone. All that was left beneath their little Christmas tree was a single bow, likely fallen from atop one of the gifts.
Also gone was their puppy, Honey, a 12-week-old Shih Tzu, a sweet white ball of fur.
She called 911, and when police arrived, they told her they thought they saw something white running nearby. So with their flashlights, they combed the neighborhood calling Honey’s name.
But all they found was a white cat.
Honey is “just the calmest, sweetest dog we ever could have,” said Russell, who manages an apartment building. “I’m not big on pets, but the kids had been dying to get a puppy.”
So when her sister’s dog had a litter, the kids got Honey.
Marcus, 5, and Marissa, 7, loved that dog. They fed her and were house training her. The only thing Russell had to do was bathe the dog.
And now she’s gone.
Happily, though, the kids won’t have to go without their Christmas gifts.
Russell said she was up late Monday night, and her phone rang at 1 a.m. It was the police wanting to know if she was awake. She was.
“I had just been praying and worshipping God,” she said. “I had just calmed down to go to sleep.”
The whole squad was on its way to her house on East Whiteway Drive. She got dressed as fast as she could. In came Squad 204, each member with an arm load of wrapped presents, gifts from the squad and police dispatchers.
The children, who were staying with Russell’s sister in Wimauma, don’t know yet that the presents have been replaced.
The family doesn’t do the Santa thing, and the kids knew that thieves had taken their presents and dog.
The kids will be happy about the presents, Russell said. But their missing dog is what hurts the most.
Russell’s message to the thieves: “If we can get the dog back, great. That would make my kids’ lives so much better, but if not, I just really want the dog taken care of because we love her like family.” And, she added, “We forgive them and wish them a Merry Christmas.”