A dog missing for four months in the wilderness of California got a dramatic rescue after he was spotted by cross country skiers and snowboarders stuck in the snow.
Russ, a 3-year-old Pit bull mix, has spent months buffeted by fate and the elements. Firstly, Russ went missing after the Caldor Fire swept through California’s Lake Tahoe in August of 2021. Russ became separated from his owner when they were fleeing the fire.
Flash forward to December, and Russ was seen curled up in 5 feet of snow in below freezing temperatures. The dog growled at the skiers who approached him so they snapped a picture and sent it over local animal rescue group Tahoe PAWS.
Tahoe PAWS Director Wendy Jones received the Facebook post about the dog and knew they had to act fast. “We knew time was [of] the essence because the dog had been out in the snow all day. And we knew how cold it was. So it was pretty intense, pretty emotional, a lot of adrenaline,” Jones told The Washington Post.
Although El Dorado County Animal Services Officer Kyle Shumaker was notified, he could not reach the area due to the steep terrain and 5-foot thick snow and lack of proper equipment.
So Wendy called on volunteers from TLC 4 Furry Friends & Tahoe PAWS. Leona Allen and Elsa Gaule “suited up with snowshoes, dog rescue equipment, and a sled from Officer Shumaker” and headed out to find the dog. By the time they found Russ, it was dark out.
“The dog was tracked up the mountain, and finally located under a tree not moving,” Tahoe PAWS wrote on Facebook. “The volunteers were elated when he opened his eyes and lifted his head.”
Allen recalled her joy after spotting Russ. “I followed the tracks and all of a sudden saw this dark shape under the tree and thought this isn’t good he’s not moving and thought to get really nervous and really upset,” Allen told KOVR. “And then he opened his eyes, and I’m pretty sure I screamed. I’m pretty sure Elsa heard me down the mountain.”
It would become quite the physical ordeal to get Russ down to safety and although Russ was very scared he was very sweet and calm with his rescuers. Allen and Gaule came up with a solution to get them down the mountain all safely.
“They were able to place him on the sled – on top of a volunteer so he was kept warm and calm,” the animal rescue group noted on Facebook. “Since it was dark, the trek down the mountain was slow and methodical.”
Officer Shumaker was waiting below and took over and got Russ to a veterinarian. They were able to track down Russ’ owner quickly through a microchip and lost dog report and when they contacted the owner they were elated.
“When contacted, the owner was ecstatic to find out that his dog was alive! Russ (the dog) had gotten scared and run off from his owner’s vehicle while he was in Tahoe for a job in August! The owner made a report to Animal Services and searched for Russ, but was then evacuated with the rest of the south shore due to the fire,” continued Tahoe PAWS on Facebook. “It was assumed that Russ had been lost for good.”
But Russ and his owner were happily reunited before Christmas, according to Tahoe PAWS.
Jones says Russ’ rescue is a great reminder for pet parents to microchip their pets and be sure to file a report with local Animal Services if they go missing. If you would like to support Tahoe PAWS and TLC 4 Furry Friends please visit their website or Facebook page.