Matt Sanders’ Hyundai Elantra was loaded up for a Sunday morning trip to see his father in a Canton nursing home: A few towels, some drinks and his trusty Pomeranian companion, Bear.
Sanders realized he left his cellphone behind and ran inside with the car still running.
When he returned, a woman wearing only a towel was in the driver’s seat.
Pleading with her to let the dog out, Sanders watched as the woman drove through the yard toward Union Church Road in the Chestnut Mountain area of Hall County.
“I’d be lying if I said I thought we’d get him back. I thought I’d seen him for the last time,” he told The Times Monday afternoon.
Sanders spent seven hours driving around town, becoming disheartened trying to find his dog in a sea of silver cars.
Around 3 a.m. Monday, June 18, Braselton Police Chief Terry Esco said they received a 911 call about a woman complaining about heart problems at the Best Western Braselton Inn on Zion Church Road. Officers found Bear unharmed in the hotel room bathroom.
Esco said they ran the tags on the car outside, discovering it was stolen out of Hall County.
“Until I see that it’s him, I’m not believing this,” Sanders said about his pet.
Minutes later, Sanders arrived at the hotel and opened the door. The almost 5-year-old dog covered in white, fluffy fur jumped into Sanders’ arms.
Reunited with his dog Monday, Sanders said the experience with authorities “restored my faith in a little bit of the world.”
“I know it’s not a person, but to me it’s just as important. I care about that dog as much as I care about anything,” Sanders said.
Esco said the woman checked in to a room at the Best Western, but he was unsure when.
The police chief said he was looking at charges pending the woman’s medical status.
Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Derreck Booth said the sheriff’s office “has made no determination at this point on charges.”
The woman’s name was not released by Sheriff’s Office, and the report received through an open records request listed the suspect as “Unk” for unknown.
It was unclear if the woman had been in the area the night before.
Sanders said there was a party in the neighborhood that night and speculated she came from the party.
“There’s no way she’s walking down Union Church Road or Highway 53 with a towel on,” Sanders said.