A dog that went missing in Lake Tahoe in August was found four months later by a backcountry skier and has since been reunited with his owner.
The pitbull-terrier mix named Russ ran away from his owner’s vehicle in August when he was frightened, according to a Facebook post from TLC 4 Furry Friends & Tahoe PAWS, the nonprofit organization that helped rescue the animal.
His owner, Ricardo Rodriguez, searched for Russ to no avail.
“We looked around for a few hours, couldn’t find him,” Rodriguez told News Nation. “We figured, you know, our best bet is to just call shelters and he has his collar and his tag with his name and my contact, along with the chip.”
Russ went missing during the Caldor Fire, which scorched 220,000 acres, and Rodriguez was soon forced to evacuate the area, according to USA Today. Though the owner had reported him missing to animal services, “It was assumed that Russ had been lost for good,” the nonprofit stated in its Facebook post.
But on December 16, there was a Russ sighting near Twin Peaks, west of Lake Tahoe. A backcountry skier came across the dog growling and unable to move in feet of snow, according to the nonprofit.
Wendy Jones, director of TLC 4 Furry Friends & Tahoe PAWS, learned a dog was spotted on the mountain and put together a team of volunteers to retrieve him. The group ascended the mountain and found Russ motionless under a tree in feet of snow fearing he was dead, according to the Associated Press.
Once he moved his head and opened his eyes, the crew was “elated.”
“I think he knew that we were there to help him and he was scared at first, but I think that he knew that our team and rescuers were there to help him,” Jones told News Nation. “He had been waiting for his owner.”
A volunteer sat on a sled, and Russ was situated on the volunteer’s lap to keep him warm and relaxed.
“Since it was dark, the trek down the mountain was slow and methodical,” the nonprofit wrote in its Facebook post.
Russ was then placed in the care of Animal Services Officer Kyle Schumaker, who took the dog to a vet to check on his health, according to the nonprofit. Animal services used Russ’s microchip to track down and contact Rodriguez in Riverside County.
“I was, like, ‘Man, this is this is crazy,'” Rodriguez told News Nation.
Russ and Rodriguez reunited on December 26.
“I think he looked confused,” Rodriguez said. “He kept, like, looking around, he didn’t know, like, what direction to go anymore. He did look a little skinny, a bit fatigued I guess you would say, but overall, he looks fine.”
Rodriguez thanked everyone who made the reunion possible.
“We really appreciate all the work that everyone’s put into rescue my boy Russ, and I can’t thank you guys enough,” Rodriguez said. “I really appreciate it.”