PLANTATION, Fla. – A South Florida woman was sexually assaulted over the weekend when she went on a date with someone she met online, and her emotional support animal is missing, only adding to her heartache, authorities said.
"She doesn't go anywhere without me. We are side by side," Melissa Utvich said.
Local 10 News does not typically identify victims of sexual assault, but Utvich said she wanted to speak on air in hopes of finding her dog and preventing something like this from happening to someone else.
Utvich said she is missing her Maltese, Roxy, after her date Saturday night at a Plantation Duffy's turned into a nightmare she can't even remember.
"I have no memory. So I just know that I was taken out of Duffy's and left in the middle of the road and found on the side of the street," Utvich said.
Utvich, who suffers from a panic disorder, went with Roxy, her emotional support animal, to meet the man she had been talking to on Instagram.
She remembers coming back from the bathroom and then waking up the next morning on a road in Fort Lauderdale.
"To meet someone in a public area -- just trying to get to know someone, and unfortunately I'm in the situation where I wake up in the middle of nowhere with trauma that happened to me and she's gone," Utvich said.
While police investigate Utvich's possible sexual assault, she is intent on finding her dog and service companion of nine years.
She's even hired animal private investigator Jamie Katz, whose tracking dogs were deployed Tuesday to search for Utvich's pet.
Utvich said not having Roxy is like not having her much-needed medication.
"I just hope she's found and returned home, for the safety of her and the safety of myself and my future, because I don't know what it's going to be. I don't know where to turn to," she said.
Police said they found Utvich's purse and cellphone inside the car of the man she went out with. They said he denies that a rape occurred that night, claiming he dropped Utvich off and she forgot her stuff inside his car.
The man, whose identity has not been released, has not been arrested.
Anyone with information about the dog's whereabouts is asked to call 954-303-6963. A $1,000 reward is being offered for whomever finds her.