Lifestyle & Human Interest

Golden Retriever Found by Hikers at National Park 11 Days After Going Missing


Sometimes when we hit snags in our plans, or things don’t go exactly the way we want them to, we can get frustrated and discouraged. It’s easy to focus on what we’ve lost rather than what we’ve gained.

But many times when we do things a little out of the ordinary or things seem to be going poorly, it’s because there’s something we’re meant to do, someone we’re supposed to help or a lesson we need to learn.

That was certainly true for two avid outdoors people who decided to plunge into Shenandoah National Park on July 15. According to a post she later wrote, Kelly McDuffie — one of the hikers — wasn’t exactly thrilled about their trail prospect.

McDuffie wanted to see some waterfalls, which is an understandable goal in the July heat. But Danny Hartung, the other hiker and McDuffie’s friend, insisted on a dryer, more historical route.

While not particularly happy about the selection, McDuffie went along with his choice to do the Stony Man hike. She made sure to let him know what she thought about the lack of water features, though.

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“We got a late start so about halfway through it started getting hot,” she wrote. “I sarcastically said that if we were on a waterfall hike I could wet my bandana to cool off.”

As it turned out, the pair didn’t have to wait long to find a blissful little oasis tucked behind the thick greenery.

“About a minute later we heard water,” she continued. “There, out of nowhere, was a spring! We went off the trail to the spring, then Danny saw some ripe blackberries, so we went a little further to pick them.”

Enjoying a little respite and nature’s bounty about two miles along their trail, the hikers were content to take a moment to cool off. McDuffie even snapped a photo of Hartung picking berries before she realized what was peering out at them from behind the bramble.

Danny saw it first — and the two instantly recognized the pup. They’d seen numerous signs posted around the national park featuring a shaved golden retriever named Max.

When they saw the golden fur and the gleaming eyes, they knew they’d found the wayward dog. Apparently, he’d escaped while his family was on vacation over the 4th of July when a cleaner had entered the residence and he ran out.

Despite their joy over finding the dog who’d run away 11 days ago, “Max” didn’t seem so happy to see them. From deep within his green hideaway he let a growl rumble in their direction.

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“Anyone who knows me knows I’m very afraid of dogs, but my motherly instinct kicked in and I wasn’t going to leave this area without him!” McDuffie wrote.

She found a way to reassure the pup and become a quick friend: food. The adventurous duo had brought a fig bar and three boiled eggs with them, which they offered to the golden.

After getting some food and water in his belly, Max gradually melted into a more jovial golden retriever personality. They found a makeshift leash, but as they tried to lead him from his hideaway, they discovered another problem.

Max seemed to have an injured leg. He was unable to walk, and the couple couldn’t carry the dog out themselves, so they radioed for help.

A little while later and Max was being carried out in style, hoisted aloft on a stretcher and carried out of the wilderness. McDuffie related that she wanted to be present for the reunion of dog and family, but Hartung had other plans and convinced her to finish their trek first.

When they finally met up with Max and his owners, they found out that they had done what rangers, the owners and other good Samaritans had been unable to do. For 11 days, the wary dog had avoided the traps that were set for him and refused to respond to rescuers the few times he was seen.

Max’s grateful family kept McDuffie informed on the pup’s progress.

“Max is good,” they reportedly told her. “He went to the vet last night. The dr said he lost ten pounds. His legs were fine but his back legs were weak from too much exercise.”

“His paws are scratched up. He has a low grade fever, but other than that, he’s perfect! I called today and they said he’s been sleeping all day. Sleeping indoors must seem like such a luxury to him now.”

For McDuffie, at the end of the day everything came together and made sense.

“It was a long day, but saving sweet Max made it all worth it!” she said. “He would not have made it out of that spot if not for the water source he so smartly chose to settle near, and the ripe blackberries. All of the stars aligned that day!”

Max has probably had enough adventure for a lifetime, but he is an excellent example of how sometimes our plans change for a reason — and if we have eyes to see those reasons, we might just end up understanding more of the “whys” in life.

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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