Dog missing for four months rescued, returned to his owner after being stuck in the snow
Rescuers saved a dog who was separated from his owner for four months after a backcountry skier spotted the pooch in deep snow in December.
Russ, a pit bull-terrier mix, ran from his owner’s car last August in the Lake Tahoe area after being spooked, according to a Facebook post from Tahoe PAWS and TLC 4 Furry Friends, the organization based in South Lake Tahoe, California, that assisted with the dog’s rescue last month.
But Russ’s owner was soon forced to evacuate from the area due to the Caldor Fire, which raged over more than 220,000 acres last year. Although he searched for the dog and reported him missing to area animal services officials, “it was assumed that Russ had been lost for good,” Tahoe PAWS and TLC 4 Furry Friends shared on Facebook.
Wendy Jones, an animal search and rescue specialist and the founder and executive director of the organization explained to USA TODAY that the dog’s owner is a traveling nurse, and after he was evacuated, he “had to take a job elsewhere” and could not return to the Tahoe area.
But last month, a skier spotted Russ west of South Lake Tahoe. He was “unable to move” and growling, according to Tahoe PAWS and TLC 4 Furry Friends’s Facebook post.
Jones said she was contacted about the dog and “immediately jumped into action to get a team dispatched up there as quickly as possible,” coordinating with two volunteers over the phone. The area had recently received five feet of snow.
“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,” Tahoe PAWS and TLC 4 Furry Friends shared on Facebook. “They were able to place him on the sled – on top of a volunteer so he was kept warm and calm.”
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“Since it was dark, the trek down the mountain was slow and methodical,” the post added.
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Animal services officials brought Russ to a veterinarian after the rescue. Although his microchip was not registered, the officials were still able to track down his owner in Riverside County, California.
“We did visit Russ every day while he was at animal services in Lake Tahoe to just give him extra love and support because he was scared and confused, but he was definitely waiting for his owner. It was very obvious that he was waiting for his owner to come get him,” Jones told USA TODAY.
The owner “was extremely ecstatic because he thought that the dog was gone forever,” she added. “He was just devastated and heartbroken that he had to leave his dog behind due to the mandatory evacuations.”
Jones called Russ a “very strong, smart dog.”
“Most dogs are. We just don’t give them enough credit, and they’re survivalists,” she said. “They’re strong. They’re smart. They go into survival mode, and they know what to do.”
Marina Pitofsky – USA TODAY
Contributing: Associated Press