Beloved pet, service dog, has been missing since October
Oct. 26, 2019, at 11 a.m. It’s a date and time Stephanie Rusher-Schrein will not soon forget.
That was when her service dog, Larry – her “baby” – went missing.
Stephanie and her family have lived at their home above Warren Bridge since moving to the Ozarks from Colorado earlier in 2019.
Stephanie had no fear, letting Larry out of the house for a little while a couple of times a day.
“I thought he would be fine out here,” she said.
But that was not the case that October morning.
“I let him out to go potty. A few minutes later I heard a vehicle stop on the road,” she said. “When I went out to call him, he was gone.”
Compounding the loss of the much-loved family pet is the fact that Larry is a service dog, not only for Stephanie but also for her 15-year-old autistic daughter, Zoe.
“I have heart problems and anxiety,” said Stephanie. “He keeps me calm. I’ve been a wreck since he was taken.”
An ‘advocate’ for the breed
Larry is a blue-nose pitbull, a breed often viewed as dangerous, but Stephanie said Larry changed many people’s minds about the breed.
“Everybody loved him, and he loved everybody,” she said. “He was an advocate for pits.”
Larry and his littermates, two brothers and a sister, were born in June 2014 in the back of a U-Haul while Stephanie was driving from Kansas to Colorado. Determined that the puppies would go to good homes, she trained all four to be service dogs.
The female went to a military couple in Colorado Springs, she said, while one male went to a wheelchair-bound Vietnam vet and the other went to another wheelchair-bound man, a personal friend of Stephanie.
She kept Larry to help her and her family.
He went everywhere with her, often with his head out the window of her car with his sunglasses on.
But Larry was more than a service dog for Stephanie’s family. He also helped comfort rescue dogs in Lamar, Colorado. “He made them feel safer,” she said.
“He’s such a good dog,” said Stephanie. “My girls could dress him up, and he didn’t care. My daughter even did a whole make-up tutorial using him, and he just let her.”
Devastated and fearful
When Larry went missing, Stephanie said her family was devastated.
“My kids, even my ex-husband, cried. We mourn over him constantly.”
Stephanie said she and her family are desperate to have Larry back.
“I’ve lost a lot this year, and please, I’ll do just about anything [to get Larry back],” she said, breaking down in tears. “He wasn’t someone else’s to take. He has a good home, and he is loved. He wasn’t just out wandering.”
She said many people are looking for Larry.
“All our neighbors helped look for him. They are amazing people,” she said. “I have everybody looking for him – in town, at Town & Country, at the gas stations. My husband works for Winrod [Construction], and I drive him to his jobs all over. And we look for him everywhere.”
Stephanie said she looks for Larry no matter where she goes, even peering into other people’s cars at the grocery store.
“I feel like a stalker,” she said.
And while she hopes that whoever took Larry is taking good care of him, she has one main fear, especially given his breed.
“My worry is I don’t want him in a fighting ring. He’s such a big, lovable dog. He wouldn’t know how to fight a tick. That scares me more than anything.”
“I’ve cried almost every day,” said Stephanie. “He’s like one of my kiddos. It would be heavensent to get my puppy dog back. He really is a family dog. He helps keep us from falling apart.”
Losing Larry has been a struggle for Stephanie, increasing her anxiety.
“If I got him back I may not be so stressed all the time. I could get back in the world and not be so scared. Larry was one of my only comforts,” she said.
And she added that she’s willing to forgive, if Larry is returned.
“I would even find them their own dog and help train it. Larry is well-loved,” she said. “I’ll even share visitation rights. Please give me my dog back - My heart’s out there, and I’d like to have him back.”