Dog Missing for Four Months Rescued From Snowy California Hillside, Reunited with Owner

Russ was found four months after going missing, curled up in a ball in the snow. The vet deemed him completely healthy.

In late August, Ricardo Rodriguez was camping near Lake Tahoe with four of his friends and his three-year-old pitbull-mix, Russ. 

Russ ran away from the group after being frightened by someone. Rodriguez and his friends spent hours searching for the pup and eventually called local shelters to report him missing. 

As days passed, the Caldor Fire began to engulf the area and the community faced a mandatory evacuation. Rodriguez was forced to leave without his beloved Russ. 

“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.”

Then, on Dec. 16, a skier near Twin Peaks, just west of South Lake Tahoe, stumbled across a dog that was covered in snow. 

The El Dorado County Animal Services worker was not able to get to the dog, so they notified Wendy Jones, founder and executive director of Tahoe PAWS & TLC 4 Furry Friends, a non-profit that specializes in finding lost or missing dogs. 

Jones sent out two volunteers, Leona Allen and Elsa Gaule, to start the rescue mission. As the women headed up the mountain, they found a set of tracks in the snow that led them to the foot of a tree. That is when Russ perked his head up.

“I was about halfway up the hill and I heard Leona start yelling,” Gaule told CNN, “At first I wasn’t sure what she was yelling about, but she said, ‘Elsa I found him and he’s alive!'”

Russ was afraid of the women at first, so they gently approached him. “I took my hand and put it under his chin, and he rested his head on my hand right away,” Gaule said. 

They wrapped Russ in blankets and brought him to safety. He was transported to the vet, where it was determined he was completely healthy.

“Dogs go into survival mode,” said Jones. “They’re super strong and super smart … it’s like a light switch goes off in their brain and survival mode kicks in.”

Using a microchip, Russ’ owner was located and informed about his dog’s location.

“I was ecstatic,” Rodriguez said. “I was looking forward to helping my dog find his way back home.”

Image source: CNN, KMOV4