Melody Russell arrived at her house in Tampa, Fla., this week to discover her home burglarized, all her Christmas gifts taken and the new family puppy gone.
“I saw some lights on in the room and I knew that something was wrong immediately,” Russell told ABC News affiliate station WFTS-TV.
Her house was completely ransacked and even the Christmas gifts she had bought her children, Marcus, 5, and Marissa, 7, were stolen. Police responded to her calls, but all that remained was leftover wrapping paper, Lt. Yvette Flynn of Tampa Police Department told ABC News.
The sliding glass doors that led to a back room in the house had been completely shattered and police confirmed that the Monday evening burglary was legitimate, Flynn said.
But nothing hurt worse than when Russell found out her children’s puppy, Honey, only 12-weeks-old, was missing.
“Their dog is what they want,” Russell told reporters Tuesday. “As I was talking to Marissa, she could barely talk last night because she was just crying and crying. So, it’s hard, it’s definitely hard. It’s like losing a family member.”
Russell filled out a police report and listed the items that were stolen, including the Christmas gifts under the tree that were taken before her kids had the chance to open them, Lt. Flynn said.
That’s when Tampa Police Department Patrol Squad 204 stepped in.
The officers and dispatch workers back at the bureau were so touched that they decided to pool their money, contributing whatever money that had in their pockets, Lt. Flynn said. The dispatchers went out during their breaks Monday evening and bought the toys that had been taken from the family, she said.
“Here in Tampa, our officers patrol these streets,” Flynn said. “When something like this happens, it affects us because these are our residents, these are our families, these are our kids.”
It was close to midnight by the time the officers returned to Russell’s home, Flynn said.
“She [Russell] was so surprised,” Flynn told ABC News. “She didn’t realize all these officers were going to show up to the house with all these gifts.”
Russell told WFTS, “I was just in awe. I had just gotten done praying and meditating and worshiping and thanking God for the situation because we always learn from everything that we go through.”
Russell’s daughter, Marissa, told WFTS, “I want to thank the people, the policemen that have brought of these. They are so great. Thank you very much!”
In the meantime, the Tampa Police Department has spread the word of the missing dog on its Facebook page and through media outlets.
“Believe it or not, the thieves took the family dog,” the Facebook post reads. “It would mean so much to the kids to have their dog Honey back.”
Lt. Flynn confirmed the search was still ongoing for Honey and officers will continue to patrol the neighborhood searching for the dog.