Dog Lost For Four Months Found On Freezing Hillside, Reunited With Owner

Losing a pet is a devastating experience. The uncertainty if you'll ever see them again, especially if the contexts were any kind of dangerous, the worry about whether or not they're safe, it's stressful for all parties involved.

This story, though, is one of strength. When separated from his owner in a natural disaster, one dog found the will to survive for four more months before he was found, rescued, and reunited.

Ricardo Rodriguez and his dog were forcibly separated in early September of 2021.

Unsplash | Tommy Lisbin

Rodriguez was camping in the Lake Tahoe area with a few friends and his three-year-old pitbull mix, Russ, when the unthinkable happened.

The Caldor Fire, a wildfire that would ultimately destroy more than 200,000 acres of land, began encroaching on their area. They were forced to evacuate, and during the panic, Russ ran away. Rodriguez was forced to leave without him.

He never got to know if Russ made it out safe.

Unsplash | Ben Carless

"After months of not hearing back from anyone, I assumed he was in good hands with a different owner," Rodriguez told CNN. "I was hopeful that one day he would return."

His hope rang true in this instance, as in December, a miracle happened.

On December 16, 2021, a skier noticed something while on a trail.

They were near Twin Peaks, south of Lake Tahoe, and what they spotted was none other than Russ curled up at the base of a tree.

Unable to reach the dog, the skier alerted local animal search-and-rescue non-profit Tahoe PAWS & TLC 4 Furry Friends, who immediately jumped on the case.

Two volunteers set out to rescue Russ.

Leona Allen and Elsa Gaule tackled the mission, hiking up the snow-covered hill to where the skier had noticed the pup.

When they finally got to him, they presumed he was dead as he was unmoving and the temperatures had been frigid.

Russ then lifted his head as they approached, and the two cheered.

"I was about halfway up the hill and I heard Leona start yelling," Gaule said. "At first I wasn't sure what she was yelling about, but she said, 'Elsa I found him and he's alive!'"

Russ was, understandably, very frightened, but the two rescuers slowly lured him out with treats and gentle, loving touches.

He was wrapped in blankets right away.

They worked to keep him warm as they descended the mountain, and once they were all safely at the bottom, he was rushed to the vet.

The vet said he was perfectly healthy despite having, presumably, fought for survival during four months of wildfires into freezing winters.

Russ was thankfully microchipped, which allowed the vet to track Rodriguez down.

The two were reunited on December 26, almost four months after initially being split.

Rodriguez was, understandably, elated. "I was ecstatic," he said. "I was looking forward to helping my dog find his way back home."

It's clear that Russ was one tough puppy.

Unsplash | Michael

"Dogs go into survival mode," Wendy Jones, founder and executive director of Tahoe PAWS & TLC 4 Furry Friends, told CNN. "They're super strong and super smart ... it's like a light switch goes off in their brain and survival mode kicks in."

While there's no one certain explanation as to how he survived, in the end, it hardly matters, as now he's back home safe and sound with his owner who loves him!

h/t: CNN

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