How a little dog made a big difference |

How a little dog made a big difference

Kathleen Carlson
Special to The Aspen Times

A puppy that did not want to be found landed himself in the hearts of the community last week.

Steinbeck was lost last Monday afternoon while hiking with his owner at Difficult Campground. After an announcement was made on local radio stations, an outpouring of hikers, campers and friends spent much of the night searching with flashlights for him.

Little did Steinbeck know that he would help bring together two couples with a common passion for people.

Steinbeck belongs to the Krabacher family. The Krabachers are Aspen residents who are co-founders of Mercy and Sharing, a children’s organization in Haiti with six schools and three orphanages.

After searching throughout the night and during much of the next day, the Krabachers were beginning to lose hope until they received news of multiple Steinbeck sightings. They were especially anxious to see Steinbeck again as his mother, Gretel, had been hit by a car earlier this year.

Enter Tom Cornelissen and Victoria Villberg. The Minneapolis couple, who are engaged to be married, were in town visiting friends. They had thought about participating in Saturday’s Ride for the Cure, but had not decided whether or not to ride.

Cornelissen and Villberg were hiking near Difficult Campground when they spotted Steinbeck. They knew he would not come to anyone but his owners, so Villberg ran back to find the Krabachers. Steinbeck was then reunited with his family.

Though eager to get Steinbeck home, Susie Krabacher offered Cornelissen and Villberg a $1,000 reward for helping rescue the puppy.

Cornelissen said he couldn’t take the money, but that he would accept a sponsorship for participating in the Ride for the Cure, a first-time fund-raising event for cancer in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“It’s very generous. We’re just happy that she found her puppy. We didn’t expect anything,” Cornelissen said. “My father has cancer. It’s a small thing we’re doing here. We just want to help.”

Cornelissen’s father has metastatic lung cancer. “One hundred miles doesn’t seem like anything compared to what he’s been going through.”

Elaine Grossman, who is also a breast cancer survivor and co-chair of the charity event, is friends with Cornelissen and Villberg. When Grossman heard the reward was donated to the event in the name of her friends, she was delighted.

“This is an amazing community that way. People are so willing to get involved and help,” Grossman said.