Caryn Sullivan: How a four-legged crime stopper saved the day

On any given day, at any given place, Tony’s story could be your story.

Courtesy photo of Tony's dog, Scottie

More than 3,000 vehicles have been stolen in Minneapolis this year, according to a new report by the Minneapolis Police Department. But the trend has extended beyond our major cities. Thieves are pressing citizens to turn over their keys and their valuables at unexpected times and unexpected locations.

A man I’ll refer to as Tony nearly became one of those victims. And on any given day, at any given place, Tony’s story could be your story, though it likely wouldn’t involve a four-legged hero.

A retiree, Tony enjoys walking his dog at Golden Valley’s Pennsylvania Woods Park. When he takes his walks, he encounters a variety of individuals who also enjoy the park — neighbors, women walking alone, seniors with canes or walkers, and other men with dogs on leashes.

But in early July, Tony encountered two young men who weren’t at the park to enjoy a beautiful summer morning.

Tony had parked his car and started out on a walking path with his dog when an unfamiliar voice said, “Stop walking or I’m gonna cap your ass.”

Tony turned to face two young men, one with a distinctive gold canine tooth, both wearing long-sleeved hoodies and long pants on a humid summer morning.

Pointing a gun at his chest, one of the men demanded that Tony surrender his phone, money, car keys, and dog — or die.

Apparently, they’d followed him from the parking lot. They liked Tony’s car, they said, and they wanted it.

This clearly wasn’t their first attempt at relieving a citizen of his valuables. They weren’t worried about being tracked, they boasted, for they do this all the time.

Tony’s first instinct was to resist, since there was something he feared more than being shot.

“While having a gun pointed at your chest by someone who clearly is capable and willing to use it is frightening, I did not want to return home to my girlfriend and tell her that her dog was kidnapped,” he says. “That would be far more frightening than potentially being shot, considering North Memorial Hospital’s trauma center was so close by.”

This wasn’t Tony’s first experience with troublemakers at the park. Weeks earlier, a stranger had intentionally brushed up against him while walking on a path that was clearly wide enough for two. It was unsettling enough that Tony began to carry a Karambit knife on his walks in case he needed to defend himself.

As he faced the barrel of a gun, Tony considered his options. Before he could formulate a plan, though, Scottie, his 14-pound Cairn Terrier, executed one of his own.

Having silently observed the interaction, Scottie burst into action, lunging at the gun-wielding man, and grabbing onto his leg. Recognizing his opportunity, Tony struck the antagonist with the circular end of his knife, cracking his gold tooth.

Then Scottie lunged for the second man, who also lost his footing. As Tony dialed 911, both men scrambled to their feet and ran away.

With police departments depleted, there was no way to know what kind of response he would receive. But the Golden Valley Police Department arrived within minutes and paramedics and officers from New Hope, Crystal, Plymouth, and Hennepin County Sheriff’s K-9 unit soon followed.

Though Tony was able to give a detailed description of the perpetrators, they’re still at large. Apparently, they were correct. They are hard to track.

And since they could also recognize Tony, his dog, and his car, he’s still a bit traumatized and reluctant to share his last name.

He’s grateful for the quick and compassionate response by law enforcement. Though they don’t often get the appreciation they deserve, he says, “There are so many of us who thank them, applaud them, and understand what they do.”

But Scottie is the real hero in this story, Tony says. He doesn’t know what would have happened had the terrier not created a diversion so Tony could defend them with the knife.

As he concludes his story, he gets emotional as he considers what might have happened to a treasured companion.

“What I get upset about is the thought of Scottie being thrown into a ring of brutal pit bulls and ripped apart,” he says. “That’s what really upsets me, that people would do that type of thing and hurt animals to that extent. It’s just wrong.”


Caryn Sullivan

A retired attorney and author of the award-winning memoir, "Bitter or Better: Grappling With Life on the Op-Ed Page," Caryn Sullivan has inspired readers with her thoughtful commentary for the past two decades. To learn more about Caryn’s work or to connect, visit