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Waukegan family pleads for return of stolen therapy dog

Family begs for return of stolen dog in Waukegan, Illinois
Family begs for return of stolen dog in Waukegan, Illinois 01:55

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (CBS) -- A Waukegan family pleaded Tuesday night for the safe return of a beloved therapy dog who was stolen a few days ago.

The shih-tzu, Bella, is the companion of a woman with dementia. Missing dog posters have gone up, and the woman's daughter, Princess Hemphill, said the absence of Bella's bark and bright eyes have left a void.

"It's been amazingly stressful here," Hemphill said.

Last Friday, the shih-tzu managed to get out of the house when the family was not home.

"Our dog ran out from the backyard got loose," Hemphill said. "A new neighbor found the dog."

By the time Bella got to the sidewalk, a neighbor who is new to block picked her up and went to many homes - looking for rightful owner. The neighbor came across a man in the neighborhood who falsely claimed to be the owner.

"And she gave it to him," said Hemphill.

No one has seen Bella since.

Hemphill Family

In addition to being the family's pet, Bella is the key companion to Princess Hemphill's 79-year-old mother, Doris. For the past 10 years, Doris Hemphill has suffered from dementia – and today, she can't talk or walk.

Bella is the therapy dog who keeps Hemphill's mom calm.

When Bella sits on Doris Hemphill's lap, she is "very calm, content, happy," said Doris Hemphill's husband, Alvin Hemphill.

Yet since last Friday, Alvin Hemphill has not seen his love of 62 years smiling much. It is the number one reason they want whoever claimed Bella to bring her back.

Alvin Hemphill said there's something that's missing for his wife, since she can't have Bella on her lap and pet her.

There is a $500 reward for Bella's return – no questions asked – because it will mean everything to Doris Hemphill to have her emotional support buddy back in her arms.

"I know she's adorable, and she's well-groomed," said Princess Hemphill, "but please, you know - we need her, because of who she is for our family."

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