Santa Fean who offered $1K reward finds beloved dog that went missing in November

January 24, 2019

Saul Carta had been living with a broken heart for more than two months.

The morning of Nov. 14, his beloved German shepherd, Max, got out of his front yard and disappeared.

“I never did give up hope [until] this past week,” Carta said. “Hope really did test me, and I think people around me saw it a little bit. They sensed me a little bit different. I really got down and emotional and sad.”

But Wednesday afternoon, Carta was feeling anything but sad.

More than two months after his dog’s disappearance, Carta was beyond ecstatic after he was reunited with Max at a Santo Domingo Pueblo construction site, about 34 miles south of Santa Fe.

How the dog got there remains a mystery, but Carta said a construction crew from the Las Vegas, N.M., area had been caring for Max.

“They said they’ve been seeing him there for two months and that they became his buddies out there,” Carta said in a telephone interview from a veterinarian’s office where he took Max to get checked out.

After Max escaped from his home in the Bellamah neighborhood, Carta said he drove around the area looking for his dog for about 10 days. When he couldn’t find Max, Carta started putting up flyers in the neighborhood and area parks where he had taken Max.

But the 8-by-11 flyers didn’t lead to Max, prompting Carta to hang posters across the city and offer a $300 reward.

“I didn’t want to assume bad things at all, but I thought maybe someone was detaining him, so that’s why I put up the offer to try and see if maybe they would take the money and give my dog back,” he said.

When that didn’t work, Carta saved up some money and upped the reward to $500.

When the $500 reward didn’t work either, Carta dipped into money he had been saving to buy a truck and raised the reward to $1,000.

Carta said he received a lot of pictures of different dogs. But none turned out to be Max.

That is, until Wednesday, when Carta received a picture of a German shepherd that closely resembled Max. He instantly called the person who sent it — a construction worker who had seen a picture of Max on Facebook — and asked him for video of the dog.

“Once I saw those pictures, I knew it was him,” said Carta, who joined Facebook to try to get the word out about Max.

An organizer with Team Frijoles, an animal rescue group that had been helping Carta, offered to drive Carta to Santo Domingo. When they arrived at the construction site, Max approached the driver’s side door first. Carta said Max “kind of glanced” at him but didn’t immediately recognize him until Carta got closer.

“I just wanted to hold him, and he just kept jumping on me and jumping on me as I’m kind of my knees trying to hug him,” he said. “He knew it was me.”

Carta said the construction worker, whose last name he didn’t remember, took the reward money.

“I always told myself, ‘If I find my dog, I’m not going to question it,’ ” he said. “That’s what I said. No questions asked, and I gave him the money.”

Besides a nail that was bleeding, Carta said Max, who turned 2 years old on Jan. 6, appeared to be in good shape and about the same weight as before.

Carta, who got Max as a puppy from a friend, said he’s never had such a close bond with a dog.

“This is an unbelievable feeling,” he said as Max barked in the background.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

Update hourly