Dog lost during California’s Caldor fire reunited with family

A dog that was separated from its owner during the Caldor fire in California was reunited with his owner last month when a skier spotted the animal in deep snow last month.

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Russ, a pit bull-terrier mix, ran away from his owner’s vehicle, according to a Facebook post by Tahoe PAWS and TLC 4 Furry Friends, the nonprofit organization that helped out with the dog’s rescue in late December. The canine’s owner was forced to evacuate due to the Caldor Fire, but he reported Russ as missing to animal service officers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“It was assumed that Russ had been lost for good,” Furry Friends officials said on Facebook.

On Dec. 16, Furry Friends executive director Wendy Jones was alerted to a Facebook post by a man who had been skiing west of South Lake Tahoe and noticed the dog in the snow, the Chronicle reported. The dog growled at him, but the man snapped some photos and shared them on Facebook, according to the newspaper.

Leona Allen and Elsa Gaule, who are volunteers with Tahoe PAWS, helped rescue Russ last month in snowy weather.

“I followed the tracks and all of a sudden, saw this dark shape under the tree and then he opened his eyes and I’m pretty sure I screamed,” Allen, 61, told KOVR-TV. “I’m pretty sure Elsa heard me down the mountain.”

I kind of petted him under the chin a little bit and he did that thing where a dog rests his head in your hand,” Gaule told the television station.

“The sweetest thing on the planet. Just the most amazing dog,” Allen added.

Allen and Gaule placed Russ on a sled, according to the Facebook post.

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“We’re just like, he’s here. OK, what’s next? We didn’t really think about that,” Gaule told KOVR. “And then I look over at Leona and I said, ‘How do you feel about riding down on a sled with him on your lap?’”

Gaule said they all slid down and then tipped over, ending the sleigh ride, the television station reported.

“We were laughing so hard, No. 1 because the dog was still alive, but No. 2, we were laughing at our situation,” Allen told the Chronicle. “Elsa called it, ‘Tobogganing the moonlight.’ That sounds a little bit more romantic than what it is.”

Russ was in good health, Allen said, and within days was reunited with his family in Riverside County, according to the newspaper.

Furry Friends officials said on Facebook that “When contacted, the owner was ecstatic to find out that his dog was alive!”

“As a rescue organization... this is what we’re supposed to do,” Allen told the Chronicle. “I’ve worked some pretty gnarly rescues, this probably being the top. I keep reliving the moment when he opened his eyes and lifted his head, and just the joy and elation inside of me was overwhelming. It’s one more life that gets to live happy and warm and safe.”