SILT – It was hard enough for Karen Derror to deal with the death of her daughter in a car wreck last week. But knowing that Melissa Newsom’s dog “Chinook” had run away from the scene of the accident and was missing only deepened the sense of loss.”He was my daughter’s best friend,” Derror said Monday.So Derror was able to find some joy after last week’s tragedy when the 12-year-old Australian shepherd/border collie was tracked down Friday. “Finding the dog, in light of everything that happened, just gave me a surge of energy. Just when you think, ‘How am I going to continue?'” Derror said.Newsom, a 33-year-old Silt resident, died last Tuesday in a two-car accident on Interstate 70 just east of the Silt interchange. Derror said her daughter apparently was headed to New Castle to do laundry and buy groceries, and her laundry bag may have saved her dog’s life, protecting him from the impact of the accident.But it took several days, and a few false leads, to track Chinook down. The Post Independent mentioned the missing dog in a story about Newsom’s death Thursday. Kevin Brown, director of the Rifle Funeral Home, said he then got a lot of calls from concerned people wanting to know if Chinook had been found.Local police also received two reports of animals that may have been Chinook. But the dogs didn’t match up with photos Derror had e-mailed to police.Then on Friday, Aimee Chappelle, animal control officer for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department, delivered a dog to the Divide Creek Animal Hospital. Emily Langegger, part owner of the facility, said Silt police brought a photo of Chinook. Langegger said the photo was “pretty sketchy,” but it appeared the dog at the clinic was a match.”Everyone in the building was hoping that we had the right dog,” she said.Any doubts were put to rest when Derror and her husband, Sig, arrived later that day.”The dog recognized the mother, and she recognized him immediately,” Derror said.Derror said the dog had been found on a property with some sheep within a few miles of the accident scene, and the property owner apparently saw the newspaper article and contacted authorities.Langegger said Chinook reportedly had been able to sleep in some hay. He was tired, and had a sore leg, but seemed to be fine, Langegger said.Derror agreed that Chinook appears healthy, and said her daughter’s dog was excited to see her. The feeling was mutual.”I’ve been kind of like his grandma for the 12 years that she had him,” Derror said. “Finding the dog was like finding a part of my daughter. Her dog was her little buddy. That’s all she had was her home and her dog and her family here and her friends at work and trying to make a life for herself in the place she loved up in the mountains.”Derror was a janitorial supervisor for the city of Glenwood Springs. She lived alone with her dog and a kitten and kept busy doing cleaning work on the side, Derror said.”She was looking forward to a new position, being trained to be a purchasing agent for City Hall. Things were starting to look up; she was a girl and her dog that was trying to make a living and better herself.”Silt police were unavailable for comment Monday, but Derror said her daughter had mentioned having a tire with a slow leak several days before the accident. She thinks the tire’s air pressure may have dropped without her daughter noticing it, causing the car to veer off eastbound I-70 when Newsom was getting onto the interstate at Silt.The car crossed into westbound I-70 and hit a pickup truck. Derror said the truck’s occupant was treated and released.Derror thanked local communities and Brown for their efforts in trying to find Chinook, and said she also appreciated the kind words about her daughter during visitation hours over the weekend. People described Newsom as cheerful, generous, a good listener, and kind, Derror said.”It made me very proud of her.”Newsom enjoyed reading, skiing, mountain biking and the outdoors, and especially animals.She was the Derrors’ only child.”I don’t have grandchildren, just her little dog now,” Derror said.The Derrors plan to keep Chinook and Newsom’s kitten at their home in the Grand Junction area. Derror has been encouraged to see Chinook smile his trademark smile, curling back his upper lip. He didn’t seem emotionally traumatized by the accident, but raised his head at the sound of a siren on TV and also seems to be keeping an eye out for Newsom, Derror said.”For the past two days when I let him out of the house he will go out to the dirt driveway and lie down for a while and look down the road as if he is waiting for Melissa to come,” she said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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