Sometime during the evening of May 2, the front door of Elizabeth Schnepp and Jeremy Geschke's Manitou Springs home blew open and the couple's 2-year-old American Staffordshire terrier, Roman, went roamin'.
What truly ensued in the three and a half days that followed, only Roman knows, and he's not talking. For his owners - and the thousands who rallied on social media and in the real world to track him down after homeless youths sold him to a transient for $10 - the part of the story that matters is the happy, slobbery one bounding around the backyard.
"It was amazing how many people on the Internet and at the church down in town helped us find him. Everyone was looking for him," Schnepp said. "I had people volunteering to go help hand out fliers and a lady from Aurora wanting to overnight me fliers so I could take them out. It's amazing the community that cares."
Roman's odyssey began when the first of many tips came in to the post Schnepp put up on the Colorado Springs Lost Pet Alert Facebook page. Roman had been spotted on Sunday, May 3, with some youths at a Manitou church that serves free meals to the homeless.
"By Monday morning, (we learned) they'd sold him to another homeless kid from Colorado Springs," said Geschke, who set out with a friend to canvass the area's shelters, soup kitchens and homeless camps looking for his dog, a purebred worth about $2,000. "We did the rounds about seven hours, circling round and round the camps talking to people."
Roman already was a familiar face.
"They were, 'Oh yeah, that's Rocks.' They were calling him Rocks. I said, 'No, that's Roman,'" Geschke said. "We stayed out there till dark Tuesday night."
Through those conversations, talking with police, and a little Facebook investigation by Schnepp, the couple was able to identify the man who had Roman in his possession. Word on the street, however, was that the man and "Rocks" planned to hit the road heading east, possibly to West Virginia.
"We were so close to tracking him down, but yet nobody knows where this kid went," Geschke said.
The good news came as Geschke and a friend ate breakfast Wednesday, after searching for Roman till the wee hours. It was Schnepp, calling to say that a UPS driver had contacted the lost pet alert with a fresh tip: Roman and the man had been spotted near the intersection of Platte Avenue and Academy Boulevard, heading west toward downtown.
"I shot down there and found them walking by the side of the road," said Geschke, who pulled over and called out to the man by name. "I said, 'You've got my dog.' I think he was in shock. He was, like, 'Yeah, I knew it was too good to be true.'"
Geschke gave the man a ride to the Greyhound station, gave him $100 and bought him a ticket to West Virginia.
"I felt sorry for him. This wasn't his fault and he lost out, too," Geschke said.
Schnepp then took Roman for a complimentary spa day at A Cut Above with groomer Jaala Wotruba, a volunteer with Colorado Springs Lost Pet Alert.
"That's what we try to do. We try to get on it right away and set up a task force and let as many people know as soon as a pet is lost," said Wotruba, whose group's volunteers work with the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, the community and on their own scanning Facebook and Craigslist ads, and have helped find close to 2,000 pets lost in El Paso County.
"It used to be by mostly Facebook postings and social media, but now we're more hands-on with volunteers. We have a couple UPS drivers and Fed Ex drivers who help us," she said. "The more people who know, the better."
When they finally brought Roman home, he celebrated briefly - then slept for two days.
"He was so worn out from the walking. He's been home about a week and he's just now getting back to himself," said Geschke, who's noticed some subtle differences in his beloved pup. "He is definitely different. He's more worldly. He's seen different cultures."
But he knows where he belongs.
"We tried to wean him off of the bed and onto the couch, but now that he's back, he's back in the bed," Schnepp said.
Contact Stephanie Earls: 636-0364