Wounded war veteran’s service dog found dead


There’s sad news in the search for the missing service dog who became spooked and ran away from its owner — a wounded war veteran.

The nonprofit group Operation Freedom Paws says the shepherd-collie mix

named “Lobo” has been found dead on a highway.

In a Facebook posting the group said that after getting a call from CalTrans about a dead dog on a highway Wednesday night, the group’s president — Mary Cortani — confirmed it was Lobo.

The group’s Facebook posting said:

“Thank you all for the outpouring of community support in the search for Lobo. It meant so much to Jeff, Gwen, and all of us at Operation Freedom Paws. Lobo was a true leader in our pack, and will be sorely missed by humans and dogs alike. Please send healing energy and love to Jeff, who has lost part of his heart today.”

Lobo had run away from owner Jeff Wilson when something frightened it as the two were in the driveway of Wilson’s home in the Berryessa neighborhood of San Jose Tuesday afternoon.

Cortani believes the sound of fireworks may have frightened the dog.

Because Wilson is on crutches after knee surgery stemming from injuries he suffered while in the service, he could not go after Lobo.

Cortani says Wilson served 16 years in the U.S. Army, including tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he was wounded. Because the dog was so important to Wilson’s physical and psychological recovery from issues he suffered while serving his country, the loss of Lobo is “very damaging.”

Cortani told SFBay on Wednesday — before Lobo was found dead:

“For Jeff it reopens other wounds.  It’s another loss.”

About 10 volunteers and three dogs trained by Operation Freedom Paws were involved in the search for Lobo.  He had been spotted in the area, but every time he was spotted he ran away from his would-be rescuers.

Lobo was believed to be about 2-1/2 to 3 years old. Operation Freedom Paws got Lobo from a shelter after he had been rescued from his previous abusive owners.

Cortani had said of Wilson’s relationship with his dog:

“It gave him a new mission, a new purpose in life.”

Because Lobo had been previously abused, finding the dog after he had been spooked was exceptionally difficult. While the search was still going on Cortani said:

“Something came back and spooked him.  Now Lobo is in full flight mode.”

Cortani had said of the wounded veteran and his dog:

“He needs Jeff and Jeff needs him.”

Cortani’s organization is a Gilroy-based group that matches dogs — mostly shelter rescues — with veterans and others who are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic brain injuries or physical or other psychological issues.

Operation Freedom Paws has gained national recognition for its work, including winning a CNN Hero Award in 2011.

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