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Local veteran seeks return of his best friend

Bluefield Daily Telegraph - 11/21/2018

Nov. 21--LERONA -- A veteran is looking for a missing dog who is not only his emotional support, but, as the old saying goes, his best friend.

On the dark night of Oct. 30 just before Halloween, a pit bull named Koal went outside with his fellow dog, Calli, to answer the call of nature and didn't come back. Now his owner, 36-year-old Mark Aliff of the Lerona area, is searching for Koal with the help of some friends.

Koal was for somebody else when Aliff found him on a Craigslist ad, but he quickly became his emotional support and, more importantly, his best friend.

"I have had him since he was 6 weeks old," Aliff recalled. "He just turned 5 in October. Actually, someone had him and they went to the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, and he was actually living on campus and staying in the campus housing there, and had been fined. He wasn't supposed to have animals. He put (Koal) on Craigslist and I saw the ad on Craigs and my wife at that time, her Shih Tzu had just died. I went and got Koal. I originally got him for her, but he really just became my dog, my child and my best friend."

Aliff joined the U.S. Navy on March 29, 2004, was injured in 2009 and medically retired on May 29, 2011. Like many veterans, he found himself needing some emotional support for depression and PTSD. And Koal gave him that support.

"He became my emotional support animal some time after I got him, which helps me with my service related, service connected disabilities like my depression, PTSD and stuff like that; so he sleeps in bed with me every night. He sleeps under the covers pressed against my leg," Aliff said.

Koal, who has separation anxiety, has always needed human contact, Aliff said.

"He has to touch you somehow in some way," he stated. "He thinks he's the size of a Chilhuahua. He has to be on my lap, but he's like 65 pounds at least, and solid muscle; so I ride down the road and he's perched on my lap. He's content, like that's his safe haven."

Koal is a pit bull, but he doesn't have stereotypical pit bull behavior.

"What is there not to miss?" Aliff asked. "He just love people. He just lights up a room. He's the happiest dog I have ever had in my entire life. And he doesn't shake his tail. He shakes his entire body. He comes up to everyone he sees and he acts like he hasn't seen you forever. He's just happy to see everyone and everybody."

"He loves human interaction; kids, it doesn't matter who it is. He love everybody, he just thrives off human energy," Aliff added.

Aliff's stepmother, LaDonna Aliff, said she came home late after work on Oct. 30 and let him and fellow dog Calli outside. Her son had been away for about three weeks and Koal was missing him.

"It was super dark that night," she recalled. "There was no moon and it was chilly in the low 40s. He was black dog and it was a black night, and there was no way I was going to find him."

Koal refused to come back when called, and after a few minutes, he couldn't be heard.

"I guess he got separation anxiety," Aliff speculated. "I was out of town for three or four weeks. It was one of those trips where I couldn't take him with me this time. He goes everywhere I go. I will take him to the gas station, Lowe's, Home Depot, but this one time I couldn't take him with me."

Koal has never been bad about wandering away, Aliff added. Sometimes he would briefly chase a deer, but would immediately come back. He often wore a collar similar to ones used with invisible fences; it could deliver a slight electric shock, but also vibrate and beep. He wasn't wearing this collar the night he disappeared.

Local people have helped Aliff search for his friend. Kim Nichols of Athens, who works at Concord University, saw a dog in her neighborhood that resembled Koal. She had noticed a lost dog poster at the Athens Post Office, but it was dark and the picture wasn't a good quality shot. She decided to help by creating a clearer poster.

"I was happy to help," Nichols said later. "My heart just broke when I heard his story. I had to do something. We really believe someone in the region has the dog, but doesn't know where he belongs. My dream is that they would spend Thanksgiving together. I would really like to see that."

A reward is being offered. Aliff can be contacted at 336-457-5950.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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(c)2018 the Bluefield Daily Telegraph (Bluefield, W.Va.)

Visit the Bluefield Daily Telegraph (Bluefield, W.Va.) at bdtonline.com

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