A local man who had his dog stolen by another man who was impersonating an animal control officer has been reunited with his pup.
According to Archuleta County Undersheriff Derek Woodman, Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) deputies responded to a call made by Larry Martinez, 72, of Pagosa Springs, on Oct. 3 in which he explained that he had his dog stolen by someone impersonating an Archuleta County animal control employee.
Woodman explained the man only identified himself to Martinez as “Steve”and explained that he was tasked with taking Martinez’s black and white border collie, Sabrina, and having it placed.
“Steve” then took Sabrina from Martinez and drove away; Martinez described “Steve” as being a white male in his 50s driving a silver SUV, the undersheriff reported.
During their investigation, Woodman reported, ACSO deputies were contacted by the Humane Society on Oct. 11 and were informed that a male party had tied a black and white border collie to a tree near the shelter and ran off.
Through more investigating, the male was identified as Steven Valdez, 55, of Pagosa Springs, Woodman noted.
Later, Martinez identified Valdez as being the one who took his dog, reported Woodman; Sabrina was reunited with Martinez later that same day.
Woodman noted that an arrest warrant had been obtained for Valdez for the crimes of stalking, a class 5 felony; second-degree criminal trespass, a class 3 misdemeanor; and theft, also a class 3 misdemeanor.
Martinez, a retired Vietnam veteran, explained in an interview that Sabrina is more than just a pet to him; she is his therapy dog when he needs her.
“There’s sometimes where I wake up at night in a cold sweat, nightmares of ‘Nam and she comforts me,” he explained.
Sabrina came into Martinez’s life when she was 2 months old, he explained, adding that the time in which she was taken from him was very difficult.
“I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I would try laying down; I would maybe lay down for five seconds and get back up,” he said. “I just kept thinking, ‘Is she OK? Is she being fed? Is she in a warm place?’”
The hardest part was waiting for the inevitable phone call, Martinez added.
“I missed her,” he said. “I wanted her back, that’s all.”
With Sabrina back, Martinez noted he is doing a lot better.
“At least I’m getting some sleep. I’m getting my appetite back,” he said.
Martinez commended the ACSO for doing a “tremendous” job in locating Sabrina.
“I was kind of giving up there for a while,” he said. “All in all, it came out OK. I got to compliment the sheriff’s department. They did a really good job,” he said.