Originally published Jan. 10, 2022

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A dog owner is relieved, and her award-winning pet is safe, thanks to the detective work, and kindness of a St. Paul family.

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Michelle Baker drove up this weekend from Iowa to show her Boxer named Jasper at Land O’ Lakes Kennel Club Dog Show at the Saint Paul RiverCentre.

Jasper was kenneled in the back of her van when it was stolen Saturday morning outside of the Envision Hotel in South St. Paul.

South St. Paul police released a hotel survelience photo image of a person of interest Monday afternoon. The Wintz family from St. Paul recognized him and knew where he lived. On Monday, the family began cracking the case.

“I’m on the phone with [Baker] and I’m like ‘We just found the vehicle,’ and she’s like ‘What?’” Tara Wintz said.

Michelle Cramblett Baker and Jasper (credit: Michelle Cramblett Baker)

She was on Facetime Monday night showing Jasper to Baker, who was back home in Iowa, distraught.

“The dog, it can hear her voice, so it’s starting to get a little more peppy,” said Romeo Payne, who helped find Jasper.

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Which is a relief, considering Jasper may have been stuck in his cage in the van since Saturday morning, in below-freezing temperatures.

“She’s like ‘Can you get in? Is it unlocked?’ ‘No.’ She gave me permission to break the window. I shattered the window quick, got inside. The dog was still in the back shivering,” James Wintz said.

They wrapped Jasper in a blanket and gave him food and water.

Jasper, with Tara and James Wintz (credit: The Wintz Family)

“I just screamed to her ‘He’s alive!’ And she lost it, and I lost it, and I’m bawling and she’s crying. And it was just like so crazy,” Tara Wintz said.

The Wintz family has two dogs of their own. They understand that bond, and the need to help others these days.

“Every time I talked to the owner, she just kept begging me ‘Please find him.’ And I said ‘You know what,’ I sent this in a message, ‘I will be out here all night and you are gonna have him back,” Tara Wintz said.

Baker’s friend picked up Jasper earlier in the evening to bring him back home.

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WCCO is waiting to hear from the St. Paul police to see if they arrested the man for stealing the van and the dog.