A Rossville, Georgia woman, whose service dog disappeared from her farm in July, is still searching for the animal that was trained to save her life.
Laurie Klusner said Bear went missing after visiting a house nurse. The nurse was only at her home for a short time, said Klusner, and asked if she could put the dog outside during her stay. Because the yard is fenced in, Klusner agreed.
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“She had been there before and never asked that. She was there for 10, 15 minutes and then she left. After that, my dog was gone,” she told the Times Free Press on Thursday.
In the four months since Bear disappeared, Klusner has spent every day looking for the German Shepherd she calls her “fur baby.”
In addition to posting flyers around town, she has also contacted news channels, joined Facebook groups to help owners find their missing pets, and worked with local law enforcement agencies from across northern Georgia to review potential leads. Just in case, she makes weekly trips to the McKamey Animal Center in Chattanooga. People contact her daily with photos of dogs they believe could be bears.
Just this week, Klusner was working with Animal Control in Sullivan County, Tennessee, to see if a dog someone thought might be actually was. That lead – just like the one from Florida and Coweta County, Georgia – didn’t work out, but Klusner doesn’t give up.
“Maybe people think it’s weird for me to do all of this, but Bear was like my kid! He’s my baby, ”she said. “He’s trained to take care of me when I need him. It’s dangerous not to have him with me.”
Contributed photo by Laurie Klusner / Bär is a 3-year-old service animal who was trained to save Laurie Klusner’s life in the event of a seizure.
Klusner has struggled with seizures for years and broke her back in 2016 which, in her opinion, limits her mobility. She also has kidney disease, which causes the levels of potassium in her blood to rise, increasing her risk of a heart attack. Bear was trained to help her with all of this.
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“He can open doors and call the neighbors if I have a seizure. He knows how to use a phone to dial 911. He’s trained to use my 911 home alarm,” she said. “He’s been helping me with physical tasks since 2016 because I’ve broken my back. If I drop something and can’t get it because I can’t bend, he’s trained to get it.”
In total, Klusner spent thousands of dollars training and certifying Bear. Paying for the same training for another dog is currently not possible for her, no matter how important it is to her health to have a companion animal around. In the end, if that were necessary, she said she would have to somehow raise funds to pay for the training, either through GoFundMe – a site set up to train another of her dogs, Xena, to be a service animal – or something else.
“It cost him $ 2,000 a month for 28 months to train him because he did hospital and controlled environment training, seizure training, and off-leash training. He also had 36 weeks of obedience training for $ 2,400, ”she said. “I can’t do that again. I know I need my service dog for safety, but I can’t. That’s why I keep hoping that someone will bring it home or find it.”
If someone took a bear and wanted to return it, Klusner said that “no questions would be asked”. She just wants him back home.
“Leave it in my garden. Call me and ask me to pick it up. I’ll get him, ”she said.
The Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Klusner came to the department after Bear went missing. Sheriff Gary Sisk said the cost of training a service animal would likely make it a crime if Bear was found to be stolen.
“The value would likely make it a crime just because the cost of training service animals is high,” Sisk said on Friday by phone. “His worth to her and the value she places in him make it a more serious crime if someone kidnaps him.”
Even so, Klusner said she would not bring charges if he was brought back safely.
“As long as they don’t try to prosecute me to get him back, we don’t even have to call the police,” said Klusner.
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Anyone with information about where Bear is can reach Laurie Klusner on Facebook or by calling 706-483-3583. More photos of Bär – who describes Klusner as a black and brown German Shepherd with a wild smile and a light brown stripe that runs down his back and shoulders – are also available on her Facebook page.
Contact Kelcey Caulder at kcaulder @ timesfree press.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.