Three days after NBC Washington first reported on the theft of a donation jar that was collecting money to pay for an injured dog's surgery, a nonprofit group has raked more than $4,000 in new contributions from viewers who saw Niko's story.
Niko, a 10-month-old border collie/Australian cattle dog mix, arrived at Rural Dog Rescue with a badly broken leg that hadn't healed correctly.
Donations to pay for his $4,000 surgery and follow-up appointments have been pouring in since word got out about the man who stole money that had been donated to cover Niko's medical care.
As of Monday morning, the group had raised about $8,257 for Niko -- and almost half of that amount came in just in the past three days.
"We are overwhelmed with the support and grateful for everyone's generosity in helping Niko and our other rescue animals," said Kim Hawkins, owner of Rural Dog Rescue.
Many donors noted that they'd seen the story on NBC Washington and News4, and they wanted to help. Some signed their pets' names instead of their own.
"Our flat-coated retriever, Ben, would like to send his support for his friends," read one message from a donor.
The donations were meant to cover the loss of the donation jar that Hawkins had placed on the counter of the pet supply store, Howl to the Chief, that she owns on Capitol Hill.
Last Wednesday morning, a man entered the store at 733 8th St. SE and asked employees several questions before buying a small dog bone. A few minutes later, a worker realized the donation jar for Niko was gone.
Surveillance video shows the man hiding the jar in his coat before leaving, Hawkins said.
"It's like stealing from a child," she said. "You don't steal from a nonprofit for a dog limping around on three legs."
Hawkins later found the donation jar -- empty -- on the ground at the corner of 6th and G streets SE. She estimated the thief got away with about $300, because the jar was stuffed with $10 and $20 bills.
"We've been really, really promoting this since his surgery's almost $4,000.... In rescue, every dollar counts," Hawkins said.
Niko had his surgery Nov. 7 and is recovering at Hawkins' home.
"He's doing good," she said. But he'll need six to eight costly physical therapy sessions at $175 each.
"While the money matters, it's just more the principal and the ethics of this. Hopefully we'll recoup whatever was in the jar and raise money so he can get all of his therapy," she said on Friday. And since then, that's just what they've done.
Hawkins has filed a report with D.C. Police, but she said Friday that no one had been out to see her yet, and officers told her they can't use fingerprints from the jar since it had been in a public place.
The group is continuing to collect money online -- and as for the donation jar, it's back at the pet shop. There's one change this time, though: "We have it secured so nobody can take it," Hawkins said.