A Mesa man has been reunited with his best friend who was missing for a little more than one week.
Max, a purebred miniature schnauzer that turns 3 on Tuesday, was inside Bill Lorimer's red 2001 Suzuki Grand Vitara SUV that was stolen by two people from the parking lot of the Valero gasoline station on the corner of South Ellsworth and Broadway roads early April 10.
Max was found about 4 a.m. Monday on 97th Way in Mesa near Broadway and Pueblo by Rolando Artalejo, a construction worker on his way to work. Artalejo was able to coax Max into his vehicle before taking him home to his wife, Zulema, and daughter, Laura, who were able to get in touch with Lorimer about 1 p.m. after he stopped at his house to take a break from looking for the dog.
"As soon as they called, I was there in about two minutes," Lorimer said. "I didn't know who was happier - him seeing me or me seeing him. He jumped up on me and knocked my glasses off. That little booger was so tickled to see me, he couldn't stop licking me. He was only about a block and a half away from the house. He was trying to make his way home. I am so grateful. They are the nicest people. I'm so glad they got him for me. This was hard on my heart."
The Artalejos saw the media reports about Max's predicament and knew who the dog belonged to.
Lorimer, 72, a U.S. Navy Veteran and retired plumber, said he stopped at the Valero station to get a cup of coffee and left the key in the ignition with the car running. He said he had his "clicker" in his hand and locked the doors, but didn't realize the driver side door did not lock with the engine running.
"When I came back out of the store, my car was gone and two kids sitting in a car next to where mine was in the parking lot said two people jumped inside my car and took off," Lorimer said.
Lorimer recovered the vehicle about four hours later, but Max was not inside of it.
In fact, one of the people who stole the car, who told Lorimer they found his contact information in its glove box, called him from a blocked phone number and told him his car was out of gas and where to find it - on Country Club Drive in west Mesa.
Lorimer, who informed the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office about the crime, said the person on the phone also told him they let the dog out of the car at an apartment complex near 96th Street and Crismon Road.
"I told them I didn't give a damn about my car. I just wanted my dog back," Lorimer said. "I can replace my car, but not my dog. I was devastated."
Lorimer, who has congestive heart failure, said he was looking for Max until 1:30 a.m. Friday, and had looked around the apartment complex where the person on the phone said they let the dog out of the car.
Max, a salt-and-pepper colored dog with a long beard and cropped ears, was wearing a red collar with his tags. Lorimer described Max as a timid dog, who won't go up to people.
Over the weekend, Lorimer said he has received about 15 calls from people who spotted the dog close to the Circle K store on the corner of Crismon and Broadway, and some of them told Lorimer the dog ran from them.
After Lorimer got Max home, he said he was resting on his favorite spot - under the coffee table.
"I've had him since he was three and a half months old," Lorimer said. "I didn't think I was going to find him. He means more to me than my own life."