February 16th 2009 10:21 am
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January 6th 2009 7:18 pm
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Okay, all ... here's the story from the regional GDB coordinator! :-)
It is a long story, but one worth telling. Argos is safe and back home in CO. That is what really counts!
Ten month old puppy in training, Argos and his puppy raising family, Bev and Tim Farmer and their daughter, traveled to Las Cruces, New Mexico to visit family over the holidays.
On Friday, December 26, Argos was allowed to spend some free time in Tim’s parent’s back yard. The yard is nicely fenced and mainly viewable from inside the house. Apparently, a family member had inadvertently left a side gate unlatched and Argos slipped out. Within 15 minutes, the entire family was searching the neighborhood both on foot and by car. Bev notified her leader back home in Colorado and the search continued late into the night with not a sign of the lost dog. Argos had simply vanished.
Posters were placed on every street in the neighborhood and beyond. There was a foot search with a door to door campaign. They filed a police report and visited the local shelter. Giving a little time for standard search ideas to turn something up, by Sunday night it did not seem that this was a simple problem. As it turned out, I was visiting my boyfriend’s family in Albuquerque the same weekend and was only two and a half hours from Las Cruces. My boyfriend returned home alone Monday morning and I rented a car and headed south.
The leaders back home in Colorado had researched radio, television and newspaper sources in Las Cruces and El Paso, which is only 40 minutes away. Argos’ co-raiser Sharon Davis emailed very clear photos of Agros and his GDB vest that we could use. I wrote a press release that was sent to all these sources and posted on craigslist. We made posters in English and Spanish with the 800 number in case no one wanted to call Colorado numbers with tips. We visited all of the shelters, including El Paso. We searched the side of the roads in case only a body would be found. Local animal control and the police were very responsive and could be seen driving the area, also searching.
Denise St Jean from the development department stepped into handle the media and was quick to get stories on several local stations and keeping them updated throughout. We located a graduate in El Paso that was willing to help by talking to the media about how important his dog is to him. Everywhere we went to place more posters, people would comment that they had heard of the lost guide dog puppy and were keeping their eyes open.
Bev, the raiser and I spoke about safety concerns during a search. I instructed her to not tell any caller what his tattoo number was; rather should someone claim to have him make them reveal the number to her and only meet a caller in a public place. We discussed the need not to send her college aged daughters door to door alone and they should only go out on a foot search except with their father at their side.
Tuesday morning, I was working my way to the frontage road by the freeway, to do another roadside search. I ran across and laundry mat/carwash that was not too far from the home where he was lost. When I showed the poster a worker stated, “I know that dog” and went back to work. The manager helped me find the best spot for the poster (the change machine, everyone sees the change machine in a laundry mat, he explained.)
When I was driving away, the worker, Saul, stopped my car. He explained he remembered that two teenagers, punk/skate board types, had come by with the dog on Friday night and wanted to trade him for some drugs. They boasted that they had “stolen it from some blind lady” and showed the black collar with tags with the GDB name. One man there offered them money, saying that dog needed to be given back to the owner and they declined, saying it was drugs or nothing. One boy stated the dog was cool, showing that he would follow commands (sit and down) and said to forget it, he wanted to keep him. One boy called his mother and she appeared in a white Chevy pick up and drove the boys and dog away. This all happened within 45 minutes of his disappearance. Saul explained that he thought the boys lived near by. He saw them often, a tall kid and a short kid, always together and said they came from the neighborhood area. He did not know where they lived, but promised to call if he saw them again, with or without the dog. It seemed like a creditable lead, but we did not really know. Denise got an updated press release out that said he was reported to have been seen with the teenagers.
We called animal control and they were quick to respond. The came by and interviewed Saul, the witness. They continued their search of the area and were following up on leads on yellow labs in the area. Bev and I continued our search of the neighborhood by car, now looking for white pick ups. There must be 1000 white pickups in that area. Together, we knocked on doors with these suspect trucks and pushed posters into the doors, giving us excuses to check out the yards and listen for a dog. When checking back in with the laundry mat and our witness Saul, two men were noticed trying to read the poster on the change machine. They were going word by word with their fingers, having obvious trouble. I went to the car for one of the Spanish posters. When they read it, they looked excited and when I mentioned a reward that the raiser was now offering, their eyes lit up.
As we worked the neighborhood and potential hang outs for skate boarders, we met more people that knew of the boys, but no one that knew where they lived. We were assured they come out at dark and hang out in the parks on either side of the area. Bev and I went back to these areas after dark on a stake out, sitting in the dark car, just hoping to see the boys. We saw no skaters that night. If this lead was correct, the kids knew that had a guide dog, so we changed our tactics. We made new posters, stating “cash reward for return of this dog, no questions asked” with just a close up of the dog’s face, hoping to target the kids and their friends and hoping someone would rat them out for cash.
Wednesday, New Years Eve, I had a flight scheduled home from Albuquerque in the evening. With Bev and her family scheduled to leave the area New Years Day, we went back out early for one last try. We brought doughnuts and sandwiches for Saul and his friends at the laundry mat. Saul interpreted for the man that received the poster in Spanish. He was sure he knew a man that knew where one of the boys lived. He had looked for the man the night before, but did not have enough gas to drive around. I gave him $20 for gas and now he seemed really interested. I offered $20 to Saul as he was taking time off work to go help and he declined, saying he just wanted to help get the dog back. I asked if he though a 20 might help the witness find the boys home and he thought that was a good idea. Within minutes of receiving doughnuts and a few 20 dollar bills, the group was gone to find the man that might help us.
Saul called an hour later, saying they looked, but the man must be working and they could not find him. They would keep looking, but it may be after five before they could find him. He promised to call with any news.
With all stones unturned and a long drive to catch a plane, there was nothing more I could do. Bev and her family could handle the lead should it come in, and we had no idea if it would even come today, so I drove back to Albuquerque, at least feeling like we had done everything possible, even if we did not find Argos.
At 2:30pm, Saul called. They had found the man and were bringing him to the laundry mat. Bev and her husband rushed there to meet them. The man, now our informant, agreed to ride with them and show them the house where one of the boys lived. It was only blocks from the house where the dog had gone missing.
When they knocked on the door, the boy’s father answered. He explained that his son and “his stupid friend Jarrod” do stuff like this all the time. They take the dogs to Jarrod’s place, 10 miles north of the city on a farm. He said that Jarrod’s mom is “crazier than a loon and sells dogs for drugs” all the time. He provided directions to the farm and the trio headed there.
When arriving at the farm, a boy and his mom were in the driveway. It was the son and wife of the man from the first house. When Bev explained she was looking for Argos, the mother appeared shocked and angry with her son and did not appear to know of the missing dog. The mom and son returned home, leaving Bev, Tim and the informant at the farm. The family that lived at the farm was not at home. Bev and Tim looked around, hoping to find a glimpse of the dog. The front door was ajar and they peaked inside to see a filthy house, plywood floors and dog feces everywhere. They noticed a neighbor near by and asked about any sightings of the dog. The neighbor was quick to say she had seen a dog, much like the missing one she saw on TV, and that this family was involved in criminal activity and drugs all the time, often stealing and selling dogs. She indicated that the family had just gone horseback riding with the dog.
Bev and Tim and their informant did some more detective work, looking for horse and dog tracks on the dirt road. The determined a direction to look and headed off. Before long they spotted the horses, riders and Argos trotting along side! Bev opened the car door, called “Argos come!” and he turned on a dime and ran full speed to her, leaping into the car, where they locked the doors behind him.
While we all worried about Argos, he likely had the weekend of his life, running free on a farm, playing with skate boards and horses. His collar and tags are gone and he was filthy, but safe. Bev gave some cash rewards to the key witnesses or informants. One of which later went into a convenience store boasting of being a hero and how pleased he was that he could pay some bills this month with his reward. Argos and his raiser family are now safe back in Colorado. I for one am grateful for the food induced recall and a dog that came immediately when called!
December 29th 2008 2:20 pm
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• 12.27.08 for immediate release
Guide Dogs for the Blind is asking for your assistance in locating a lost dog. Argos is 10 months old and a puppy in training for the Guide Dog program. While visiting Las Cruces for the holidays, the male yellow lab managed to escape the yard and has been missing since Friday night. Argos is being raised and trained by a volunteer family from Denver. Guide Dogs for the Blind is a nonprofit organization that breeds, raises and trains dogs for people that are blind or visually impaired. The dogs are placed with individuals that need them, free of charge. Each and every dog in the program is a valuable resource and has been bred for many generations to have the qualities needed to become a guide.
Argos is a puppy, however being 10 months old, looks like an adult dog and is reddish yellow in color. He has tattoos in both ears with his ID number and is wearing a black collar with guide dog tags. If you have any information about this lost dog, please contact Bev Farmer at 720-261-8404 or Guide Dogs for the Blind at 800-295-4050.
Canine Community Field Representative
Guide Dogs for the Blind