By Brian Chasnoff For Express-news.net
San Antonio, TEXAS — For Christmas this year, Chris Cooley gave a stranger a generous gift in exchange for something he considers priceless.
When someone called him on Christmas Eve and said he’d found his missing golden retriever, the Cotulla rancher promptly handed over the $10,000 he’d sworn as reward money for whomever returned his dog, Jim Bowie. The dog was stolen last week along with Cooley’s pickup and trailer from the Bass Pro
Shop parking lot off of Interstate 10.
Home again for the holidays, Jim Bowie tore through Cooley’s North Side home Saturday, a boisterous reunion that proved more than a Christmas gift â€” Dec.
25 is both Cooley’s and the dog’s birthday. J.B. turned 1 and Cooley 46.
The reward’s recipient, Nathan Ramos, told Cooley he was walking his own dog, a Chihuahua, near the Medical Center on Friday when the retriever bounded toward them in the street.
Ramos, 37, had seen Cooley’s offer on television. But he was â€œin shockâ€ when the relieved rancher actually wrote him a check for $10,000, Cooley said.
â€œPretty good present for both of us,â€ Cooley said. â€œIt was a sacrifice, but it was the only way I could reach everywhere, including Mexico.â€
After the Ford F-250’s disappearance Tuesday, Cooley feared the thieves had crossed the Texas-Mexico border with his dog in tow. The pickup and trailer wer still missing Saturday, along with six cattle gates and reams of financial paperwork inside the cab.
But Cooley said he’d retrieved the most valuable cargo.
â€œJust imagine your child,â€ Cooley said.
Ramos did not return messages left Saturday. Cooley said Ramos told him the $10,000 would help relieve medical debts incurred for his late father’s liver transplant.
The rancher is not above concerns that his dog’s return was somehow related to the theft. But he put suspicions aside to retrieve Jim Bowie, showing up at the caller’s apartment with three friends and a television news crew.
Ramos met them in the courtyard, Cooley said, and seemed displeased with the cameras.
â€œI went on television pledging the $10,000, and I wasn’t going to turn around and not have integrity about it,â€ Cooley said. â€œI hope it’s legitimate.â€
Cooley had slept and eaten little in the days since the theft, feeling as if a member of his family had been kidnapped.
J.B. is among a long line of field and hunting trial champion golden retrievers bred by Cooley for friends and family. Cooley keeps Jim Bowie’s mother, father, and brother at his house.
â€œThese dogs have been integrated in my family and with my friends for 25 years,â€ Cooley said. â€œThey are the family. I don’t have any children. I take them everywhere.â€
After the theft, Cooley and his brother, Mark, mulled the question: What are we willing to sacrifice? The first sum was $5,000, but Cooley doubled that to ensure a reunion.
Mark fronted his brother the figure from his bank account; otherwise Cooley would have had to dip into his retirement fund.
â€œIt’s a hit, for sure,â€ Cooley said. â€œI’m not poor, but popping that out: That’s not easy.â€