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Maureen McMullen, Published January 11 2014

Search for lost dog continues

To follow the search for Oliver, go to facebook.com/lostdogfargo

CASSELTON, N.D. – At least nine volunteers helped comb about 5 square miles near here Saturday, as a Montana Army veteran continued his search for his missing service dog.

Oliver, the Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix who helps John Kellems cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, was lost when Kellems rolled his pickup on Interstate 94 near Casselton Jan. 3. Kellems has vowed to stay in the area as long as he can to find Oliver.

“I keep pretty motivated during the day,” Kellems said Saturday, as volunteer searchers gathered as they have been daily at 10 a.m. at the Casselton Tesoro. “It’s when the sun is setting and I still haven’t found that proof of life, that’s when the emotional toll really sets in.”

On Thursday, tracking dogs provided by ProDog Security of Grand Forks led searchers to an outhouse on a farmstead that housed reassuring evidence: urine spots, fresh droppings and pieces of popcorn.

Kellems said he considered the pieces of popcorn a clue because at home, with two other dogs in the house, Oliver will often take a mouthful of popcorn and leaves pieces behind.

The property on which the outhouse sits is owned by North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Kellems said, and Betsy Dalrymple, his wife, gave searchers permission to look on it. But tenants on the property protested, before later relenting. On Saturday, Cass County sheriff deputies placed two live traps on the property in hopes of snaring Oliver.

“I know how important animals are to myself and others, so we definitely want to help him out and find Oliver,” said Sheriff Deputy Sam Rankin, one of several Cass County deputies volunteering time in the search for Oliver.

Kellems said volunteers on Saturday covered about eight different areas, mostly filed and farmsteads. They planned to search until dark.

The volunteers included Jane Stein, who traveled from Moorhead to help.

“I’m a dog lover and I just feel so bad for him because of the loss of his puppy. My heart is just breaking for him because I know how I would feel if this happened to my dog,” Stein said.

Kellems said the community support for him as his girlfriend, Candace Howard, has been strong. For instance, an anonymous donor raised the reward for Oliver’s return from $1,000 to $1,700, according to a Facebook page set up to post updates on the search – which by 5 p.m. Saturday had more than 1,600 likes.

“It almost feels like I’m home sometimes. People invite you over to just take a break, they invite you to go to something different so I can reset, but I haven’t been able to do that. I can’t stop searching,” Kellems said.