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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!