Rifle rallies to find lost dog after car wreck
When a Tuesday car wreck in Rifle sent the driver to St. Mary’s Hospital via helicopter, the search was on for her dog Raptor, who was in the back seat and darted from the crash site in fear.
The family of the driver, Tina Leyba, also went to the hospital to be with her, so the Rifle Police rallied the community to make sure her bad day didn’t get any worse.
Raptor was found the next day, thanks in no small part to the voluntary impromptu community search that was conducted that afternoon and evening.
Tina’s husband, Carlos Leyba, said the community’s response was overwhelming and he and Tina were absolutely stunned by the response.
Tina has since returned home, but with serious injuries following the crash. Carlos Leyba was in Grand Junction while the search for Raptor began.
He said it was hard to be in the hospital knowing the dog was lost, and admitted he didn’t sleep that night.
Fortunately, the community responded.
“There’s no way I can thank everybody,” Leyba said. “I appreciate what everybody has done, from the police department on down.”
Shortly after arriving to the crash site, the Rifle Police Department posted to Facebook asking for the community’s assistance in locating the missing boxer.
All Tuesday afternoon and into the late evening hours, people could be seen driving around town or walking on nearby trails yelling for Raptor.
Dee Stiers, who works at the Riding Institute of Disabled Equestrians in Silt, said she drove near the crash site and around town on Tuesday looking for Raptor for a couple hours in the afternoon, and again a couple of hours in the evening.
She said hers was one of dozens of cars on the road searching for the dog with just as many people seen on foot calling for Raptor.
As a longtime Silt Mesa resident, Stiers said both Carlos and Tina are so beloved in the community. Those 48 hours just goes to show that, she said.
“They just give,” she added.
So, the community decided to give back.
“I’ve never seen [such a response] from the community,” she added.
Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein said the takeaway is just how much the Rifle community can look out for one another.
“What I thought was really neat, as we were riding around looking for the dog, we would stop to ask people on the street to help look for him,” Klein said. “They all would say they were already looking for him.”
He added that when he was out walking his own dog later that night, he could see and hear people still searching for him.
After multiple sightings in the area, Leyba used his truck, which he called “Raptor’s truck,” to attract the dog using dog toys, clothes and other tools to help bring him to the scent.
Some 25 hours after the crash, the dog was found in the area of Columbine Ford, looking at the truck with intense curiosity.
He’s now back home and ready to celebrate his one-year birthday on Saturday.
While it’s going to be a bit of a recovery for Tina, at least it’s made easier with Raptor back home.
“It makes me incredibly proud to say the citizens of Rile and throughout the area would step up in a situation like this,” Rifle Mayor Barbara Clifton said. “It just shows the spirit of town.”
“We saw people all around looking for him,” she added.
The search got so much positive attention, Klein said the police department’s updated post on Thursday letting everyone know Raptor was found reached 46,000 people on Facebook.
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