Greeley man reunited with dog found in Puerto Rico

GREELEY — When you hear the story of Francisco, you know he shouldn’t be here.

He’s a dog, after all, a stray dog from a country with an estimated 400,000 stray dogs who fight every day for survival.

But the story of Francisco and how he got to Greeley, how he adopted an American, is considered a miracle by those who know him.

Tyler Rugh of Greeley now owns Francisco, or is owned by him, depending on how you look at the story.

Tyler is 24, grew up in Greeley and graduated from Greeley West High School. He works at Jamplay.com, an online guitar lesson company based in Greeley. Tyler is the company’s online video producer.

The strange story of Tyler and Francisco began last month, when Tyler was on vacation with his girlfriend, Rebekah Marsh, in Puerto Rico. Both live in Greeley, but they went to Puerto Rico to visit a friend from Greeley, Sirah Masters.

“We went to this restaurant in Puerto Rico one day, and this dog was out in front, at the entrance,” Tyler said. “I petted him, and we went on inside. The next day, same restaurant, he was there again. I petted him again.”

Later, as Tyler and Rebekah started walking, the strange dog followed them. They went to a bar on the beach, and the dog sat on the sand and watched them.

“Then he somehow sneaked up an embankment to the bar, and suddenly he was right beside me,” Tyler said. “That’s when he started taking a place in my heart.”

The odd dog followed them to their apartment, stayed outside all night and waited. The next day, when the couple was scuba diving, “I looked up,” Tyler said, “and he was on the beach again, watching.”

Tyler called his mother in Greeley and asked if he should go through all the trouble of bringing a stray dog home. She said yes.

So, the next day, the day before their flight back home to Greeley, Tyler and Rebekah were walking the new dog — which they named Francisco — to the vet’s office to get clearance for the trip to America.

“But a car came around the corner and hit Francisco,” Tyler said. “He was injured and ran off.”

And now the second part of the miracle begins.

“He was gone,” Tyler said of his new friend. “He was injured, and we searched everywhere, but we couldn’t find him. We flew home the next day. ... I was crying on the plane.”

Tyler had decided he would probably adopt another homeless dog in Greeley, in memory of Francisco, the dog he almost brought home.

A few days later, back in Puerto Rico, Masters was working at a restaurant when a customer told her he wanted to take the leftovers to a dog that was outside, who had injured legs and had been on the beach, bleeding.

Masters followed the customer and found the injured dog. She tended to the dog’s cuts on his rear legs, but she also called Tyler.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Tyler said. “She’d found Francisco.”

It was only the beginning of the long process of bringing a dog to Greeley. Masters started the process by obtaining a certificate of health from a veterinarian and a certificate of American adoption, and she made arrangements for a flight to Colorado.

“We couldn’t find the right kennel to put Francisco in that would meet federal regulations,” Masters said. “It looked like we’d have to cancel everything at the last minute. Then we found the right kennel, just before the flight, at a Walmart.”

So Francisco, the once-stray dog who adopted an American, flew out of Puerto Rico to New York, then to the Denver International Airport, where Tyler was waiting.

“Sirah and her mother did all this work to get Francisco here,” Tyler said. “We really owe them for that.”

The vet bills, kennel and flight cost Tyler about $500. He said it was worth it.

Tyler and his new friend are almost inseparable now. Francisco won’t let Tyler out of his sight, sleeps at his side and looks at his rescuer with obvious love.

Francisco, part Australian shepherd and mostly mutt, needs to gain about 10 pounds, and Tyler is working on training. Because Francisco came from a Spanish-speaking country, the question was whether the dog could understand English.

“Doesn’t make any difference,” Tyler said with a grin. “He doesn’t listen in either language.”

Francisco is Tyler’s first dog, and it’s pretty obvious Tyler is Francisco’s first human. Out of 400,00 stray dogs in Puerto Rico, they found each other.



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