Finding Duke — How a Community Searches for and Rescues a Dog After Its Owner Dies
Spotted by a passerby less than a quarter of a mile from the crash site, Duke has been reunited with his family.
Duke, a boxer, and his owner Jeff Crosswhite, were involved in a head-on collision on Sunday, March 1 near Redwater, Texas. Jeff, and the driver in the other vehicle lost their lives in the accident. Duke was in the truck with Jeff and ran away after the accident.
Almost 2,000 friends, family and people who didn't even know Jeff were all looking for Duke both online and in muddy fields and the wooded area in Redwater, Texas, in hopes of easing the unbelievable pain the family of Jeff endured after the loss of their father, brother and grampa. It gave everyone a purpose -- and brought a community together for a single goal -- 'to find Duke.'
The tragedy of the accident is more than many of us can bear and we all knew that finding Duke would help provide closure and give us all an opportunity to begin the grieving process. I know that Jeff would have wanted us to find his dog and he would have done the same for me.
On Sunday, March 1, after receiving the call that Jeff had died in a car crash I posted a plea on Facebook for help in searching for Duke. Sara Caller responded and she immediately headed to the area with her dog to see if a scent could be tracked. She did not have any luck. The following day, there were reports of sightings and information flying everywhere. It was too hard to keep up with. We were all running in different directions and I knew we had to get organized but I was out helping with the search and there is only so much that you can do from a smartphone so I called Sara and asked if she could start a Facebook page that we could use to centralize the information.
She agreed but little did she know that it would take over her life for many days to come. The group page quickly gained members and a massive search for Duke was under way. Melanie Noble, a good friend of Jeff's, was out in the field organizing the search and turned Delaughter's Grocery in Redwater into a command center for the search team to meet and coordinate their efforts. It started out with a few and grew into a lot of people walking, driving, riding four wheelers and horses.
There were sightings and even a very close look alike found but until Tuesday afternoon, there were no actual signs of Duke. I called a friend and asked to borrow a dog trap. I have been involved in lost dog searches before and even dogs that knew me well would run out of fear so I hoped that we could lure Duke to the live trap with food and scents from home. I felt sure Duke would stay in the area because that's what dogs do.
On Monday, I took one of my rescued German Shepherds, Axle, to the area and we walked the woods. He isn't trained to search for anything but he always has his nose on the ground so I thought it couldn't hurt. I came across areas that were posted 'no trespassing' one of which had a phone number so I called it. I reached the property owner who turned out to be an old friend. He provided me with information on adjacent property where Axle actually seemed most interested in the scents near the gate pictured below. More texts and calls were made and we had permission to go onto the property.
I didn't realize at the time, but the only photo I took during my searching that day turned out to be the gate that we walked through the next day to find Duke.
The man pictured in the photo with Duke is Teddy Gerrald. Jeff worked for Teddy but they were as close as family. It was one of Jeff's many jobs. Teddy and his wife Summer own Stoney who is the doggy-daddy to Duke. When the passerby Angie Giles spotted Duke on the side of the road with his leash still attached, she realized this was the dog everyone was searching for because she had seen it on the Facebook page created to find Duke.
After we got the news that there was an actual sighting of Duke, it was Summer who called me and asked if Teddy should head out to the site with Stoney and I said, "Yes!" (On Sunday, we had originally tried to use Duke's brother to draw him out but, being a nine month old pup, he just wanted to play and wasn't going to cooperate on the leash.)
The traffic near the area was insane. It was shortly after 5 p.m. and people were going home after work. There were cars all along the road. The sheriff and fire departments were called in to help with traffic. When Teddy and Stoney arrived, they headed into the woods through that same gate marked 'Posted' and after about five or 10 minutes I received a call from Teddy asking me to come to where he was. When I walked back I saw two boxers, Stoney and Duke! It was a great relief.
There were a lot of doggy kisses to go around. I took a photo of Teddy hugging Duke and posted it on Facebook and the Internet went wild. My phone didn't stop pinging with notifications.
Here are some of the videos from the evening:
Duke is headed to the funeral home to see the family and to finally be reunited with his owner Jeff Crosswhite who died in the car crash on Sunday.
There is so much more to this story and maybe after decompressing from the rush of Duke being found and after allowing for time to grieve the loss of my good friend, Jeff Crosswhite, maybe then I can sit down and write a little more detail but for now here is what matters -- Duke has been found.
Thank you to all involved in this search. Facebook is an amazing tool.