There is a small glimmer of good news out of Colorado this week in the aftermath of a highway crash that killed dog rescuer Charles Roberts on Friday. A long-time driver for Rescued Pets Movement (RPM), Roberts was transporting 26 dogs from Houston’s BARC shelter to rescues in Colorado when his van hit a guardrail and crashed. Roberts’ adult son Jared and the animals survived, but four of the frightened dogs ran off into the night. On Tuesday, the smallest of the missing dogs — a 1 1/2-year old black Schnauzer–Yorkie mix named Coco — was finally recovered.
“She was a little dehydrated. No injuries. She’s lost a pound, but other than that she’s fine,” says Cindy Perini, co-president of RPM.
The three larger dogs — Willow (also known as Kelly), Powder, and Sandy — remain missing, but they may not be far. Coco was following fresh dog tracks when she was caught, and it’s believed she was with the other missing dogs. They may have been traveling in a pack since the crash.
According to Gretchen Pressley, community relations manager with the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, a Pueblo Animal Services officer spotted three dogs together the day after the crash but was unfortunately not able to capture them.
Pressley tells Dogster that food and water stations are being monitored as the search for the missing trio continues. She says the other 22 dogs who were swiftly picked up after the crash have already moved on to the rescues they were originally en route to. Coco spent Tuesday night tucked in warmly at Farfel’s Farm Rescue in Boulder before heading to her new forever home.
Perini is certain Roberts would be glad of that. She says the retiree was very devoted to helping shelter dogs.
“Every Thursday for a year, he and his son had been doing this drive,” Perini explains. “When I asked him, ‘why do you do this, you’re retired?’ he said ‘I absolutely love it.’ He told me there’s no greater feeling than taking the animals that are here about to die and taking them someplace where they are wanted and loved.”
According to Perini, only two dogs were injured in crash that took Roberts life just before 3 a.m. A puppy’s toe was crushed and later amputated, and another dog suffered a dislocated foot. Most were unharmed — something Perini says is miraculous given the state of the van. The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region was on scene helping dogs almost immediately after the accident, and Perini hails its staff as heroes.
The work continues outside of Colorado City to find the remaining three dogs. Willow is described as a 75-pound, tan German Shepherd mix. Powder and Sandy are both said to be Pit Bull mixes. Sandy is the larger of the two and a nursing mother (her puppies were unharmed and safe). The search party is unsure if she is she is traveling with the rest of the pack.
“Every imaginable resource is being used to find them,” says Perini.
Tracking dogs, foot searches, drone flyovers, and wildlife surveillance cameras are being used in the search. There’s still a lot going on, and the folks at RPM have not had much time to process the tragedy that took Charles Roberts’ life.
“We’ve been focused on the family,” says Perini, noting a Go Fund Me campaign that was started to help the Roberts family with expenses and a memorial service. That campaign exceeded its goal of $25,000 over the weekend.
Perini says RPM is looking at ways to improve transport in the wake of the crash, and is continuing to move animals out of Houston to other locations where they are more adoptable.
“It’s a terrible, terrible tragedy, but we have to carry on,” she explains.
“Right now we’re just trying to get through it and keep doing what Charles would have wanted, which is to keep saving and rescuing these animals.”
Editor’s note: Since this story ran, all four dogs have been found. Yay!