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Lifestyle & Human Interest

Dog Missing for Months Found Alive in Wilderness, Asleep in Five Feet of Snow: 'I Screamed'

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A nearly impossible reunion has taken place, thanks to a good Samaritan adventurer and volunteers with a rescue group in Lake Tahoe, California.

Back in August, a traveling nurse was in the South Lake Tahoe area as the Caldor Fire approached, according to KOVR-TV. The nurse’s dog, a pit bull mix named Russ, got spooked at some point and ran off.

The owner did everything to try to find Russ, but the area was evacuated a short while later. The missing dog was reported to animal services, but time passed and there was no sign of Russ.

On Dec. 16, 2021, a backcountry skier spotted a dog out in the wilderness in the snow and word got to Tahoe PAWS Director Wendy Jones.

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“It was in the snow, apparently unable to move, and was growling at the individuals who observed it,” a Facebook post by TLC 4 Furry Friends read. “El Dorado County Animal Services Officer Kyle Shumaker was notified, but he was unable to access the area due to the five-foot snow depth and steep terrain.”

But tracker Leona Allen, 61, and volunteer Elsa Gaule were up for the challenge. The two women snowshoed into the mountains, and spotted tracks they hoped belonged to the lost dog.

“Wendy called upon TLC 4 Furry Friends & Tahoe PAWS volunteers, who suited up with snowshoes, dog rescue equipment, and a sled from Officer Shumaker,” the post continued. “The dog was tracked up the mountain, and finally located under a tree not moving. The volunteers were elated when he opened his eyes and lifted his head.”

The moment before the dog showed signs of life was a tense one.

“So I walked up, and all of a sudden he opened his eyes and lifted his head, and I screamed,” Allen told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It was just involuntary.”

“I kind of petted him under the chin a little bit and then he just did that, you know where a dog rests their head in your hand,” Gaule added.

“I look over at Leona, I go ‘how do you feel about riding down in a sled with him on your lap?'”

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They wrapped him up in a blanket and began their descent.

“They were able to place him on the sled — on top of a volunteer so he was kept warm and calm,” the post read. “Since it was dark, the trek down the mountain was slow and methodical.”

Shumaker then took the dog to a veterinarian, where he was declared to be in good health. The dog also had a microchip, which led rescuers to the traveling nurse — and then they realized the dog they’d rescued had an amazing survival story.

Russ got plenty of affection from the rescue group for a few days until his family was able to pick him up. It was a happy story for all involved, and a great example of the power of a microchip.

“As a rescue organization … this is what we’re supposed to do,” Allen said. “I keep reliving the moment when he opened his eyes and lifted his head, and just the joy and elation inside of me was overwhelming. It’s one more life that gets to live happy and warm and safe.”

“It was so heart-warming especially around the holidays, the end of the year,” Gaule said.

“The year was so hard on everybody and then just to have this really happy ending and to be able to be a part of that was — that was pretty special.”

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking