“That broke my spirit,” said Ahmed, who believes it was the same guys who pistol-whipped her and stole Max, her older West Highland terrier, while they were walking Saturday night. “I was realizing it was probably a ring and they’ve been doing this for a long time.”
She stayed up until 4am checking the advice, emails and support that flooded her inbox.
At 10 in the morning he received the call he feared.
“We have Max,” the detective said, deadpan.
His tone didn’t sound like good news.
Earlier that day, a D.C. resident named David Graham had been handing out flyers to tenants in the building where he works across from Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens when he saw something white across the street in the grass.
It was a dog that walked with a slow and older step.
“When [the dog] I turned around and saw the spot under his eye, I knew it was that dog on the news,” Graham said.
Ahmed made flyers with Max’s photo after she was attacked on Saturday night.
It was something she never imagined would happen in dog-friendly DC, which felt like a refuge compared to New York, where she grew up.
When a masked and hooded man approached him Saturday, he thought he was going to ask for directions. Instead, he lifted his sweatshirt to show a gun.
They got into a fight and he hit her in the head with the gun at least twice, she said. When a dark-colored van pulled up, Ahmed said, he asked the driver for help.
“I screamed, ‘Rape!’ because I thought people would pay attention to that,” she said. “Then I told the driver that I was being robbed.” But the driver was involved.
The men put Max inside the truck, Ahmed said. He remembers trying to grab a door handle, but the vehicle didn’t have one. He reached out to grab Max, but the truck accelerated.
Most likely, the thieves who took Max from Ahmed realized that his sentimental value was greater than his market value and released him. He was found about six kilometers from his house.
It was not the first time that Max and Ahmed had separated.
The last time was five years ago, when a downpour fell during a family road trip from New York to Florida for his uncle’s funeral.
“The car overturned. My mother was thrown and the car landed on top of her,” Ahmed said. Ahmed was knocked unconscious, but Max’s barking woke her up.
When he arrived at the hospital, they told him that his mother had died and Max had disappeared.
They posted his photo and information all over social media in South Carolina. Ahmed was staggering. His uncle. The his mother. And then Max.
But the next day, someone spotted the scruffy Westie trotting along Interstate 95. Rescuers used the dog’s microchip to reunite him with Ahmed.
This time, the wandering Westie was a little slower as he turned toward his rescuer and headed toward him.
“The way he came to me, I knew it was him,” said Graham, who is also from Queens, like Ahmed. He recognized Max from the news and remembered that Ahmed had described to him the spot under one eye where he had recently had surgery.
Graham took the dog to the police and that’s when the detective called Ahmed.
“It wasn’t like a movie, with Max running towards me,” Ahmed said, after they met at the Sixth District police station. “I was the one who ran towards him. And I kissed him all over.”
She brought him a bowl of water, a bowl of food, a blanket, a t-shirt (in case he was cold and wet), and an ice cream cone. Max was clearly exhausted but apparently unharmed.
The detective told Ahmed that the case is not over. They recovered surveillance video of the incident and are following leads. Since the van may have been stolen, he’s talking to the auto theft division.
Ahmed said that she he remains optimistic and points to all the people who were quick to give him support and advice, and to Graham for how kind he was to Max. And she has a request.
“I want to pay it forward,” he said.
Rashawn Williams, 31, is a nonverbal man with autism who has been missing since Friday, when he left his residential facility in Silver Spring and boarded a bus headed to Fort Totten, where Ahmed was attacked.
Williams’ father, Jimmy Hall, posted a heartbreaking video in which he asks, between sobs, that people help him find his son.
Ahmed said he hopes Williams receives the same level of support, energy and luck that Max had when he was lost.
Williams “deserves so much attention,” he said.