Ralph Roberts is a Navy veteran living alone in Stevens County, Washington with his yellow Labrador, Leia. In mid-July, he hired a neighbor’s 16-year-old son to help with some odd jobs around his house, but things turned bad when it came time to pay. When the boy asked for his money, Roberts claimed he didn’t do the dishes properly and refused to pay the $10 an hour they’d agreed to. The boy returned home, and when he told his father, John Louis Price Jr., what had happened, the two returned to Roberts’ house to seek compensation in some other way.
Price told Roberts there was something in his house that he wanted to show him.
At age 69, Roberts is not in the best of health. He usually carries an oxygen tank with him and it is difficult for him to walk without help. But, trusting his neighbor, he agreed to go to Price’s house, a quarter of a mile away. Price and his son helped Roberts walk, but instead of leading him to the house, they took him down a heavily wooded ravine.
When Roberts realized they weren’t taking him where they promised, he got scared. Knowing that he would not be able to return home alone, he begged and pleaded not to be left behind. Instead, Price pretended not to hear him, robbed him and walked away. Roberts told KXLY:
‘I said, ‘You intend to leave me here to die.’ And he didn’t want to talk to me or anything. He wouldn’t even say hello to me or anything and that’s what they did.”
Price and his son ran away, leaving Roberts helpless in the middle of the woods. But luckily for Roberts, Leia was with him.
“I didn’t want to die.”
Unable to walk, Roberts screamed for help for days and crawled as far as he could through the woods. Temperatures reached nearly 100 degrees while he was stranded, forcing him to drink swamp water to survive.
“Oh God, I crawled a very, very long way. Putting me up there in those mountains really hurt me and I never want to go through that again.”
But he wasn’t alone. Leia never left his side.
Three days after Price left him to die, Roberts turned to Leia and told her to go find his landlord, Roy “Tag” Canfield.
“The last day I said, ‘Look, you should go find Tag. We’re both going to die here.’”
Understanding, Leia ran back home – where Canfield lives next door. Seeing that Leia was alone, he realized something was wrong.
“It just didn’t look right there, and Ralph wasn’t. He never went around, walked his dog and stuff.”
In the middle of the night, Canfield called the police and explained that he had not seen Roberts for several days and requested a welfare check.
Deputies arrived and immediately realized that Roberts was in trouble. The front door of his house had been left open and both his cars appeared to have been searched. Emergency services began searching the property, only to hear a very faint, distant cry for help.
In the ravine, about a quarter of a mile away, Roberts was still alive, using all his strength to call for help one last time. The Stevens County deputies, Peterson and Stearns, followed the sound of his voice and found him on the ground. He was cold and tired, wearing only sweatpants with no shirt or shoes.
“I thought it was a dream. I knew I was going home.”
The officers took Roberts to seek immediate medical attention. They recorded his statement and arrested Price the next day, seeing that he could not have entered the woods alone.
Price denies having anything to do with Roberts’ disappearance. He says he called local hospitals looking for Roberts and even once checked for Roberts at his property with the landlord. He is currently in jail and charged with attempted murder.
If it weren’t for Leia, this story might have had a much sadder ending. Loyal to her human, Leia stayed by his side and found help when asked. Without her, Roberts might never have been found.
“And that’s what saved my life is that dog.”
Featured Image: Screenshot/KXLY.com