She is old, blind, and was lost for a week in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but the labrador retriever Sage has been found and reunited with her family. Sage, 12, who lost her sight to glaucoma, was mistakenly left outside on the night of Feb. 24 and wandered into woods frequented by mountain lions. Owner Beth Cole says family and friends searched the rough terrain day and night for a week; not even a professional dog tracker could find her, reports KPIX. On the eighth day, hopelessness was setting in. Then her Boulder Creek, Calif., neighbor Dan Estrada went on a walk with a friend and saw what looked to be a trash bag in a stream—and realized it was Sage. "I was overwhelmed with sadness because I knew at that point that it would be a body recovery,” says the firefighter/paramedic.
But Estrada tells the Santa Cruz Sentinel he noted some movement in response to the noise of his own two dogs, and when he jumped in the water and embraced Sage, she lifted her head. He carried her over his shoulders out of the canyon and to his car, and perhaps not a moment too soon: After a dry week, rain was coming, and Estrada says he found Sage with her chin just above the water. Once the rains hit, he doesn't think she would have had the energy to lift her head out of the higher waters. Cole isn't the only one who's joyful: "Since she's returned home people have been bringing by snacks for her; one neighbor cooked her a steak," she tells the Sentinel. Estrada refused the $1,000 reward for himself, instead asking that it go to an animal group, reports KSBW. (This might be the biggest dog sanctuary in the world.)