CHICAGO (CBS) -- Seven missing dogs were reunited with their owners on Thursday, a day after two armed carjackers stole a minivan belonging to a dog daycare center in the River West neighborhood. The dogs were shivering from the cold, but otherwise unharmed.
The van was found shortly before 11 a.m. Thursday, in the 2100 block of South Wabash Street.
"I am very relieved. This is a very, very blessed day for all of us," said Joseph Giannini, owner of Urban Out Sitters, based in the River West neighborhood. A driver for the doggy daycare was getting ready to take the dogs home to their owners Wednesday afternoon, when two armed men stole the minivan at gunpoint near Ogden and Grand avenues.
Giannini and the owners spent all night searching for the van. Shortly before 11 a.m., Daisy Bowers, owner of a hair salon in the 2100 block of South Wabash Street, called police after she saw a dog sitting in a gray minivan for at least an hour.
"I noticed that there was a dog in the front seat, looking out of the window, as if to say 'Help me,' or 'Come get me,'" she said.
Police ran the plate and confirmed it was the stolen minivan, and found the dogs inside, cold but apparently fine.
"They're cold. They're hungry. One of them left a little present on our front seat," Giannini said. "I am overjoyed. My biggest concern was for these dogs, and that they weren't going to be safe. I pictured the worse, and that we would have some frozen animals."
Owners hailed Bowers as a hero for helping find their dogs.
"I don't know about a hero, but I'm just glad that the dogs are safe," Bowers said.
Tad Tomita was among the relieved dog owners who were reunited with their pets. His miniature schnauzer, Mochi, was among the shivering dogs.
"I was completely stunned. I just couldn't wrap my head around what was going on," he said. "We don't have any kids, and she's our child."
Urban Out Sitters and the dog owners had been offering a $10,000 reward for the dogs' safe return. Tomita said Bowers would be given the reward money, but he and the other dog owners were still ironing out the details.
Giannini said, in 15 years doing business, this was probably the most devastating thing he's had to deal with. He said he believes the carjackers just wanted the vehicle, since the van does not have the company's logo, and the dogs were in the back in cages when it was stolen.
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