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Two dogs stolen during a car heist in Maplewood Sunday are resting safely at home — but the car is still missing.

Maplewood residents Joe Nelson and Hillary Volkman left their car running when they ran into a Holiday gas station on Cope Avenue Sunday night so their dogs, Koda and Willow, wouldn’t get cold.

“We were in and out in two minutes,” Nelson said, but when they stepped outside, their black Ford Fusion was gone, and so were the dogs.

They went into “meltdown mode,” Nelson said.

Besides calling the police, the couple turned to social media for help locating Koda, a lab mix, and Willow, an Australian shepherd mix. Volkman said a friend posted a video on Facebook Monday.

Maplewood police used their own Facebook and Twitter accounts to post a photo of the suspect from security camera footage on Monday afternoon, Maplewood Police Cmdr. Dave Kvam said.

Later that day, a person claiming to be the suspect’s sister contacted Nelson via Facebook. She said she had the dogs and wanted to return them. The couple worried it was a scam, but when Nelson met the caller at a St. Paul gas station Monday evening, there were Koda and Willow.

“I ... grabbed the dogs, and that was it,” Nelson said. “She had no information on the car or whereabouts of the suspect. ... The only thing she told me is she’s super sorry about what her brother did.”

Koda and Willow are exhausted but unharmed, Nelson said.

Police received several tips and have identified the suspect, Kvam said. But so far they have yet to apprehend him or track down the car with the license plate 2DG309.

“This was a perfect example of a crime of opportunity,” Kvam said. “I don’t know if the suspect was planning to steal a car, but he walked out of the Holiday and there was one ready for the taking.”

Even in Minnesota winters, police recommend that drivers avoid leaving running cars unattended, he said.

Rilyn Eischens is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.