On our 2nd day in Mammoth we decided to leave our dog Abby, a 2 yr old Australian Shepherd, with a guy who takes dogs out in the wilderness and hikes with them off leash. She has a great time and get lots of exercise while we go skiing and she hates being cooped up in the condo all day by herself. We have done this before with her and she has never had a problem as she likes to stay with the herd. This time, for whatever reason, she did not want to follow the dogs back in the truck and instead ventured out on a frozen lake. The guy got all the other dogs back in the truck and then supposedly drove around the lake to try to get closer to her but then lost sight of her. I don't buy that story, however, because when we went back to look for her it was all wide open flat terrain with no trees or hills to block visibility. I went with him in his truck driving around the small lake and kept asking him for details on what happened and got very vague answers. I think he got frustrated that she wouldn't come when called and left her out there. We came to find out later that he has done that before and has lost other dogs in the past.
Anyways, this story isn't about that, it is the story of Abby and her incredible experience. We couldn't find her around the lake. When we arrived back to the condo we called the Police and found out that a snow plow vehicle almost hit her on a small freeway that leads into town off the main freeway. We quickly jumped in the car to go search that area but could not find her. Back in the condo we could hear the wind and snow picking up and had a very hard time imagining our city dog, who sleeps on our bed and has never experienced cold or snow, making it through the night. The next day we got word of a stray dog running down a main road. We searched that area for hours but didn't find her. Turned out it was a different dog. We then got word of another sighting near a campground deep in the forest and was told she was running "like a bat out of hell". A very nice lady who worked at a coffee shop got off work and helped us search for 6 hours. Our kids were getting hungry so we went back to the condo to feed them when we got a frantic call from her saying she sees our dog running through the forest. She was being chased by a coyote. Most likely a pack of coyotes. We jumped in the car again and rushed over there. Other people were out there and they helped search with us. No dice. We were devastated. I tried sleeping that night but every time I heard the wind howl it was like a punch in the gut. The next morning at 1st light I went on my own to search the area but again couldn't find her. I went back to the condo to pick up my wife and kids and we dropped the kids at daycare and my wife and I went out again hiking through the forest. We stopped every person we saw to keep a lookout. There were many headed out with snowmobiles and one guy in particular seemed confident he would find her. He asked 2 questions. Does she have a collar? Is she friendly? We responded yes to both and off he went deeper in the forest than we could go. He took a picture of the flyer my wife made and said he would not take a reward. 2 hours later as we were hiking my wife's cell phone rings. I said a prayer as she answered her phone and I heard the most amazing words I have ever heard. "I have your dog". My wife and I jumped for joy, screaming at the top of our lungs, hugging each other, crying, and laughing at the same time. We raced back to the entrance of the trailhead as fast as we could. The man on the snowmobile was holding her like a baby. He carried her on his snowmobile for 2 miles to get back to us. We thanked him profusely and took our cold, scared, and bloody pawed dog in to our car and headed to the Vet. Her paws looked a little infected as well as her eye but she was fine. She slept in the condo for the next 3 days. We gave her lots of treats and love and she is now almost back to her old energetic self. Best Christmas present ever!
I still don't know how she managed to get away from coyotes since she is unfamiliar with the territory and conditions. The area she was seen running is notorious for having lots of coyotes and we were told they always hunt in packs. The two nights she spent out there were in very stormy conditions. She is our miracle dog. I shed so many tears during those 2 days and had no idea just how much I loved her until I thought I would never see her again. Here she is in her normal environment: