May 21 • 03:11 AM

Sarge's last stand

Accident victim's faithful companion stays by her side before succumbing to injuries

Although injured, ‘Sarge,’ the faithful Doberman companion of accident victim Karla Kopp, stayed by her side until she was out of harm’s way before walking into a nearby field and laying down for the last time.
July 30, 2008
ALMONT — The search for 'Sarge,' the large and friendly Doberman lost in last Wednesday's accident ended sadly on Friday when the missing pet's body was found near the scene on M-53 between Bordman and Hough roads.

Sarge had been the beloved pet of Karla Kopp and her family for the past five years or so. The big black and brown dog disappeared after Karla was flown off in a life flight helicopter, the victim of massive injuries when her vehicle hit a tanker truck head-on. Sarge had been riding along with Karla, who was making her way back to Almont after having lunch with her dad, her grandmother Donna Anderson says.

After the crash, onlookers and relatives were concerned that Sarge ran off in the ensuing emergency situation. Flashing lights, sirens, EMS vehicles, police and a looming helicopter may have sent him into the fields.

While Karla was being treated for a head wound, broken pelvis, damaged ribs and other serious injuries, community and family members organized a search in an effort to reunite her with Sarge when she recovered. Dog groomer, handler and advocate Paula Alfonsi of the Poochie Parlor made phone calls and distributed photographs of Sarge.

Karla, a second year student at Northern, was crazy about Sarge—and he returned the favor, Anderson says, her voice choking up with emotion.

"She just loved that dog and he was her faithful companion," Anderson says. "He was just an exceptional dog. Just a wonderful dog."

Indeed, Sarge demonstrated his exceptional character right until the end, Anderson says. An onlooker told her that Sarge stayed by Karla's side until she was lifted into the air by the helicopter. Apparently knowing that she'd be taken care of, Sarge walked off into a nearby field and laid down to die.

Alfonsi, who suspected that Sarge might have been injured in the accident but hoped that he'd be located alive and well, organized a search party on Friday for the specific purpose of walking the nearby fields. Knowing dogs as she does, Alfonsi feared he may have walked off and found a safe, well-hidden spot to die.

"A young lady with our search party found him (Friday night) just about 50 feet from the scene of the accident," Alfonsi wrote in an email. "He just laid down in the tall weeds. He must have had internal injuries."

Anderson says she's grateful for all the help and concern about locating Sarge, though she's deeply saddened by his loss.

"When Karla would come over to visit me with him he'd sit in my lap just like a child," Anderson says. "He'd just sit down gently, his paws on the floor. He was so sweet. He was an exceptional dog."

As sad as Sarge's death is, Anderson says she and her family are counting their blessings. Though she suffered a head injury and required surgery, Karla sustained no neurological damage and should be able to return to college this winter.

"She's studying to be a wildlife biologist, which is a wonderful thing," Anderson says. "We're so very grateful that she'll be okay."

Karla is the daughter of Terry and Andy Kopp of Almont.

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