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Finding missing dog answers family's prayers

A family who prayed for the return of a dog that disappeared after an accident was surprised to hear he turned up at a Bible camp. Ranger, a dog that went missing after a fatal car accident near Medora, N.D., more than a month ago, was found Thur...

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Angie Artz, of West Dakota Veterinary Clinic in Dickinson, spends time Thursday with Ranger, a dog lost following a fatal crash in August. Ranger was found Thursday morning by a Belfield man at the Badlands Ministries grounds near Medora. Officials say Ranger is in relatively good health and should be back with his family in about a week. Photo by Beth Wischmeyer - Dickinson Press

A family who prayed for the return of a dog that disappeared after an accident was surprised to hear he turned up at a Bible camp.

Ranger, a dog that went missing after a fatal car accident near Medora, N.D., more than a month ago, was found Thursday at Badlands Ministries.

The springer spaniel was a little thin but wagging its tail and looking for some attention Thursday at West Dakota Veterinary Clinic Inc. in Dickinson, N.D., where the dog is receiving treatment.

Jerry and Celeste Roper of Lake City, Minn., were heading west Aug . 25 on Interstate 94 when they were involved in an accident with a truck. Jerry Roper died at the scene, and his wife, Celeste, was taken to a hospital, where she was treated for her injuries and released.

Ranger was in the vehicle during the accident but was missing afterwards. Officials have been searching for him and chasing down sightings ever since.

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Ranger was found by Bernard Kordonowy, who saw the dog as he was walking up to the maintenance building at Badlands Ministries near Medora. Kordonowy said he hadn't heard Ranger's story.

"My thought was, he looked like a good dog, I could see tags dangling and a collar, so I thought I'd catch him and see who he belongs to," Kordonowy said. "He didn't want to come to me, but I just talked to him and eventually he came to me."

Once Ranger came to him, he said the dog was friendly, and they bonded. Kordonowy took him inside and gave him food.

Other people at Badlands Ministries told him it might be the dog missing from the crash, Kordonowy said.

After calling the number of the Minnesota veterinarian on Ranger's tags, Kordonowy said the vet positively identified him as Ranger from the rabies tag identification number.

He got in contact with Rebecca Weist, the Ropers' daughter, who asked him to take Ranger to a vet in Dickinson.

With snow, rain and cold temperatures in the forecast, Kordonowy said he's glad he found Ranger when he did.

"He was very wet and very cold," he said. "As thin as he was, I don't know if he would have lived the day."

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Weist said the family is happy to get Ranger back, and she cried when she heard the news at work.

"We are just so grateful today," she said.

She doesn't know when Ranger will come back to Minnesota.

"Right now, we're just more concerned with getting him healthy and getting him back up to his weight," Weist said.

Weist said she has always believed Ranger is too stubborn to die.

"We were just keeping so much hope he would be found, but now with the latest storm that was rolling through and talking about snow and things like that, I was getting nervous," Weist said. "I knew it had to be soon because he wouldn't make it through the winter." Ranger lost about 25 percent of his body weight and had sores from cockleburs, but was relatively unharmed. Dr. Kim Brummond, veterinarian with West Dakota Veterinary Clinic, said she was surprised he was in such great spirits.

"He has such a bright attitude, which is great for being out in the wild that long," Brummond said.

With a little TLC, along with dewormer, antibiotics and a special diet, Brummond said she expects him to be fine.

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Ranger doesn't appear to have any injuries from the accident, but may have had some stiffness and soreness initially, Brummond added.

"Rebecca said to me, 'It's funny how we prayed every night to find him and he shows up at a Bible camp,'" Kordonowy said.

To Weist, having Ranger back helps somewhat ease the pain of losing her father.

"Ranger and my dad were just such good buddies," Weist said. "We've got just like a little piece of Dad back."

Weist's husband. Bill, said they never gave up hope.

"We've been keeping Ranger in our prayers daily," Bill said in an e-mail. "Something told us that we would get him back. Thank God for the good people of North Dakota."

The Press and the Herald are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

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