SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — A new lost pet rescue group officially launched in Summit County on June 11 and less than two weeks later, the group performed their first rescue. And it was a doggone — or dog found — success.
Summit Lost Pet Rescue, Inc. (SLPR) became a formalized 501(c)(3) nonprofit on June 11, but has been operating informally for about five years under the leadership of Brandon Ciullo and Melissa Davis.
Now, Ciullo and Davis work as mission coordinators when a missing pet is reported. Then, a group of experienced volunteer team leaders organize other volunteers who live around the search area to post signs, search areas, report sightings and place scent items, cameras and traps where the pet may be.
Ciullo said while their base operations are in Summit County, he hopes Front Range residents learn about group.
"We have had pets go missing from their visiting owners, and recently a dog was killed on the highway in Heeney because his Denver-based owner didn't know what to do when the dog went missing, so he went home,” he said. “If only he had called Animal Control or reached out to us directly online, we could have helped him."
Charles Pitman, mission coordinator for Summit County Rescue Group (SCRG), said SLPR will be a great resource for when SCRG receives calls about lost or injured pets in the backcountry.
On June 21, the newly formed SLPR put their efforts to the test for the first time since the group was formalized as a nonprofit.
Around 7:30 p.m. that day, Summit County 911 dispatch received a call about a missing hiker on the Lenawee Trail in the Peru Creek area, near Montezuma. A woman was reportedly searching for her 15-pound dog named Sunny, which had escaped her control and disappeared around the summit of Lenawee Mountain, according to SCRG.
SCRG Mission Coordinator Charles Pitman asked a team to stay on standby while he went to the area. He soon found the woman and told the team to stand by. However, the dog was still missing.
The team reached out to Brandon Ciullo and Melissa Davis of SLPR, and both said they had already heard about the missing dog from social media posts.
The following day, June 22, three members of SCRG joined SLPR members and spent the day searching the Lenawee Trail and Peru Creek Road for Sunny.
Around 2 p.m. that day, Ryan Weed, a dirt biker from Arvada, arrived at the Peru Creek parking area and noticed a SLPR volunteer putting up lost pet signs. He asked for details and said he’d keep an eye out for Sunny, according to SCRG.
Shortly after he began biking, he spotted Sunny running down the road and up into the woods. He rode back to the parking lot and called Sunny’s owner’s number from the lost pet sign. He also called the SCRG search team, according to SCRG.
The search group gathered at the place where Sunny was last seen. After about an hour, Sunny and her owner were joyfully reunited, according to SCRG.
Sunny had been missing for less than 24 hours.
Ciullo offered advice to pet owners: Make sure they have a collar, tag and microchip, and if they go missing, leave some used clothing in the area since they’re likely to stay around that smell.
“Then, give us a call and we can take it from there,” he said.