A leisurely walk in the woods turned into a rescue mission for a California firefighter.
Dan Estrada was planning on taking a stroll through the redwood forest with an old friend. The two were enjoying time together outdoors in the San Lorenzo Valley in California, not far from Estrada’s home.
With them were Estrada’s two dogs, a pit bull named Koelsch and a dachshund named Barnabus.
Suddenly, the group spotted another dog lying in the woods.
The dog wasn’t a stranger to them. In fact, she was a frequent playmate. She was a 12-year-old blind Labrador named Sage that belonged to one of Estrada’s neighbors. She and his dogs often played together. What’s more, Estrada knew that Sage had been missing for eight days.
For more than a week, the entire neighborhood combed the area in search of her.
Her owners had put up posters and led search parties but to no avail. Eight days after her disappearance, they were beginning to give up hope.
When Estrada first saw Sage, she was lying motionless in a creek. He worried she was dead from hunger, dehydration, or fatigue. But when the group drew closer, she was able — barely — to raise her head.
“At first I thought it was a garbage bag in the water,” said Estrada. “My vision is not very good so it wasn’t until I got closer that I saw it’s actually a white lab laying there lifeless in this stream – her chin just above water level. It really was a miracle.”
He dreaded the thought of having to bring the sad news of her death to her grieving family.
Sage’s owners even enlisted the help of a professional dog tracker. All their efforts were in vain. So, it was shocking that Estrada happened to stumble upon her after so long without success.
“Our neighbors and other members of the community helped us search day and night for a week,” said Sage’s owner, Beth Cole. “We looked everywhere.”
Sage wandered away in late February after her family went to bed.
Each person thought that someone else had let her in. Confused and unable to see, the dog drifted into the forest.
Even though the family lives in California, it was a cool winter. They worried about the dog’s well-being after so long without food, water, and shelter. Even worse, the region had an unusually active month for mountain lion sightings. Sage might’ve been injured or killed.
Estrada realized that Sage was too weak and exhausted to lift herself out of the water.
A trained paramedic, he managed to hoist the dog across his shoulders and carry her back to safety.
As it turns out, the rescue came at the perfect time. During Sage’s week in the wilderness, the canyon had been dry. But the rain was projected to move in. That means the creek, which she couldn’t escape, would’ve overflowed, drowning her.
Her family was overjoyed to have her back.
She recovered from the ordeal and the whole neighborhood spoiled her. But she owes her life to Estrada.
“I can’t emphasize enough the amount of support we’ve received from everyone,” Cole said. “It’s been amazing. Since she’s returned home people have been bringing by snacks for her; one neighbor cooked her a steak.”
Estrada refused to accept the reward the Coles offered him. But he did use the opportunity to help more animals. He hosted an auction of seven leashes. The proceeds went to the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter.
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