September 24, 2015 10:34 PM

Derek Volkmer is trying to hold out hope while also dealing with a heavy heart. 

On Friday, the Army veteran’s beloved pit bull Gotti escaped from Volkmer’s backyard and has yet to return, reports WBALTV

“It’s just hard not having him around,” Volkmer said.

Gotti helps the Brooklyn, Maryland, man deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder and has been a best friend to him throughout all the ups and downs in Volkmer’s life. 

“Lack of jobs. Almost lost my house. Little food. Me and him, we’ve been through everything,” the concerned owner said. “I rescued him, and he rescued me. I suffer from PTSD. He’s not a licensed service dog, but he’s my service dog.”

After serving in the military for eight years, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Volkmer was discharged in 2012. He had a hard time adjusting to civilian life, until he rescued the abused pit bull.

Now, Volkmer, his girlfriend Jennifer Cousins and their two other dogs are on a determined search to find this special friend. Gotti got loose after one of the couple’s other dogs managed to open the latch of their fence and run out. The other dog returned later without Gotti. 

Volkmer is especially worried about his canine buddy, a former bait dog, because his teeth are filed down, leaving him unable to defend himself. 

The couple have put up signs around their neighborhood and have shared Gotti’s picture on Facebook in an effort to bring the pup home. Volkmer is also offering a reward for the safe return of Gotti, no questions asked. 

“I just want my dog back,” Volkmer said. “If you bought him, I’ll refund the money. I don’t care. I just want my boy back. He belongs home with us.”


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