UPDATE (KTVE/KARD) — As of Tuesday, May 3, 2022, John Richburg’s dog Leslie has not been found. For more information, read the story posted below.

RAYVILLE, La. (KTVE/KARD) April 21, 2022 – “She’s been with me through every anniversary of my dad’s death,” John Richburg said. “She’s been with me through everything. It’s just really hard for me for her to be gone. It’s hard for my whole family.”

A Rayville resident’s dog has been missing for more than one week, and as week two approaches, he’s asking for the public’s help to find her.

John Richburg has owned his chocolate lab dog Leslie since he was 14-years-old. Leslie isn’t just a regular pet, but she is a therapy and emotional support animal. When John was 13-years-old his father, Charles Edward Richburg, died after a 5-year battle with cancer. According to John’s mother, Rebecca Richburg, his father’s death led John into a downward spiral with a drug addiction battle.

“He went through a really difficult time after his dad died,” Rebecca said. “And ended up overdosing when he was just barely 14-years-old.”

According to Rebecca, after John’s overdose she placed him at the Capstone Treatment Center near Searcy, Arkansas. Part of the Capstone Treatment Center’s therapeutic program is giving patients a dog to raise and take care of, which is how John got Leslie.

“It’s just helpful for everything. To have something that you love with your whole heart, and it loves you back unconditionally. You could yell at it for eating out of your pop-tarts one minute, and it will still love you. It’s a big thing to not be alone and when you have demons that are constantly in your head. I’ve struggled with addiction my whole life, and I don’t think anything, any counseling or anyone has helped me see my own worth more than that dog,” John said. “I don’t know if I’d be here if it wasn’t for her. I’ve struggled with depression, self-harm wanting to kill myself, and she’s been the one constant through all that. She’s been the one thing that’s really gotten me through it.”

John last saw Leslie in Rayville at his girlfriend’s house on the corner of Franklin and Mulberry Streets on Friday, April 8, 2022.

“I had left the house for work, and then my girlfriend had come home from work a few hours later. The dog was there when she got home, but then I was looking for her that night, she was no where in the house,” John said. “So, we don’t even know how she got out. Nobody let her out to go to the bathroom or anything. She just disappeared.”

John is offering a $50 reward to anyone who returns Leslie. If you have any information or know where Leslie is, contact (318)-542-9161. Leslie is described as a 13-year-old chocolate lab with cataract eyes with white coloring around her eyes and is tan colored. She answers to Leslie. John lives at a Sober Living House in Rayville. According to Rebecca, Leslie has gotten away before, but found her way back.

“She’s a super special dog. Just very empathetic, very loving and caring and not aggressive at all,” Rebecca said. “I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if somebody picked her up. I’m hoping that happened and that she’s safe.”

According to Rebecca, Leslie has had a tremendous positive impact on John and their family, and she was a calming influence during his therapy sessions.

“This dog has just bonded to him so closely through the time of just deep heartache that nobody can understand,” Rebecca said. “And the dog just… unconditional love and was there for him during the hardest times of his life.”

Rebecca said that John had not experienced a straight road to recovery but a journey of ups and downs. However, Leslie has been there consistently for him.

“I’m hoping that they can be reunited again,” Rebecca said. “We love Leslie. She’s made an impact not only on John but on other people too. I’m just hoping that we can get the word out to as broad an audience as possible so that hopefully she’ll be found safe.”

According to John, for some people who struggle with addiction, it’s hard to accept when you need help. The hardest thing John has ever done was accepting that he needed help, especially when people repeatedly told him that he needed support.

“It’s one thing to be told that and one thing to finally accept it for yourself. Because there’s no way to get better until you actually take that leap and admit that you have a problem and that you need something or someone to help you,” John said. “It’s not defeat. It’s actually the strongest thing that you can do. It’s just not to be ashamed of the things you’ve done and your addiction because you can have a new life where you make up for that.”