When a blind, 12-year-old Labrador retriever disappeared into the woods near Boulder Creek, California, her owners feared the worst.
The Cole family accidentally left their dog Sage outside one evening in late February. When they went to bed, each of them thought that another one of them had brought her inside. The next morning, when they realized she was gone, they immediately began searching for her.
“Our neighbours and other members of the community helped us search day and night for a week,” Beth Cole told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “We looked everywhere.”
It had been one of the darkest, wettest winters in the San Lorenzo Valley in recent memory, and they were starting to believe that Sage was gone for good.
Eight days after their beloved lab disappeared, their neighbour Dan Estrada was hiking with his family and longtime friend on the land behind the Cole’s house.
When Estrada spotted something white down by the water, he initially thought it was a garbage bag. It wasn’t until he got closer that he realized it was a white lab laying lifeless in the stream.
Estrada thought he was going to have to be the bearer of bad news until, suddenly, Sage lifted her head.
“When we saw she was alive, I jumped in the stream and hugged her,” Estrada told reporters. “Man, it was really emotional.”
Sage was noticeably weak and exhausted, so Estrada threw the old dog over his shoulders and carried her out of the dense forest-covered canyon.
When they reached the trail where his wife and kids were waiting, things got emotional.
“Everyone was crying,” Estrada said.
Cole told reporters that she and her family were happy to have Sage home. They were also deeply grateful to Estrada and everyone else in the community, who spoiled Sage when she returned home.
“I can’t emphasize enough the amount of support we’ve received from everyone,” she said. “It’s been amazing. Since she’s returned home people have been bringing by snacks for her; one neighbour cooked her a steak.”