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For pet owners, few things are scarier than a furry friend running away and getting lost. Unfortunately, this worst-case scenario happened to Ricardo Rodriguez and his dog, Russ. In summer 2021, the two went on a camping trip near Lake Tahoe. The outing was going well until the pup became scared of his surroundings and ran away into the wilderness. Russ never came back to their campground, and Rodriguez couldn’t find him.
The devastating circumstances got even worse in the weeks and months following Russ' disappearance. The area around Lake Tahoe faced natural disasters along with intense inclement weather. In August, the Caldor Fire spread around Northern California and forced many people in the area to evacuate their homes. At the end of 2021, the region (like other parts of the West Coast) endured a massive snowstorm. For the Lake Tahoe area, that meant almost two feet of snow.
With the passing months and extreme weather conditions, Rodriguez was sure that he’d never see Russ again. But a miracle was in the works; Wendy Jones, who operates the organizations Tahoe PAWs and TLC 4 Furry Friends, heard that a dog needed rescuing. She sent two volunteers, Leona Allen and Elsa Gaule, to look for Russ.
As Allen and Gaule trudged through the thigh-high snow, they saw a dog in the distance, under a tree. “I thought it was him, but he wasn't moving,” Allen explained. But then, Russ showed signs of life; he lifted his head and opened his eyes. She felt “absolute joy” upon realizing he was alive. “I think both of us went up the hill thinking this was going to be a recovery, not a rescue,” Allen said. “He had been up there, most of the day, and it was very cold and snowing all day.”
The two women moved Russ off the mountain to safety, wrapping him in blankets and riding downhill on a sled. The entire mission took hours. Upon arrival, he was immediately transported to the vet where he was examined and declared healthy despite all he had been through.
Then came time to get in touch with Russ’ human. Luckily, that part was easy—the pup had a microchip. Animal service officers contacted Rodriguez to tell him Russ had been found, and he was ecstatic. “I thought it was a work call and I answered it … like ‘How can I help you?' And they were like, ‘We found your dog in the middle of the snow,'” he recalled. “I'm like, ‘In the snow? What? Where?'”
Rodriguez could hardly believe that Russ had been found until he was reunited with his amazing furry friend. “This guy is something else right here. He’s been through it all.”
When Ricardo Rodriguez's dog Russ ran away during a camping trip, he was afraid he would never see his pup again. But miraculously, Russ was rescued from a snowy mountain four months later.
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