Sage had been missing for eight days. She’s a 12-year-old blind dog, in a part of California where mountain lions are commonly found — a part where recent flooding, had also just killed two people.
So last weekend, when Dan Estrada, his two dogs, and a friend, came across the Labrador lying still next to a creek bed, his first thoughts weren’t optimistic.
“She was lifeless,” Estrada tells Shelter Me.
Then Sage lifted her head.
Sage had gone missing from her home in California’s San Lorenzo Valley community, on the night of Feb. 24. It was a terrible mistake; each member of her family, thought another had brought Sage in for the night.
When the dog was discovered missing, her family set out to find her. They even brought in a speciality dog tracker, but with no luck.
“Our neighbors and other members of the community helped us search day and night for a week,” Beth Cole, Sage’s person, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “We looked everywhere.”
Those eight days later, Estrada — an EMT and firefighter, and leatherworker — and his friend, and the dogs, were out hiking. It wasn’t a usual route; they’d just decided to head down a mountain to a spot by a stream that Estrada finds peaceful.
“There she was, laying next to the stream,” he says. “Her and I, I guess we like the same spot in the forest.”
Estrada called his wife, who called Sage’s owners — they live, just next door. By the time they’d climbed up the mountain, Sage hoisted on Estrada’s shoulders, the dog’s family was waiting.
They took Sage right to the vet. Remarkably, again, Sage was found to be healthy.
Estrada loves dogs, and has two rescue pups of his own — a pit bull named Koelsch, saved from the streets of Oakland, and a small dog named Barnabus, the “alpha dog in the household,” who was given away by a family who couldn’t afford to take care of him.
When the Coles offered Estrada a $1,000 reward for finding Sage, he turned it down — asking instead for the money to be donated to an animal charity.
He’s also creating, and raffling off, dog leashes which will benefit an animal rescue group. There will be seven of the leashes, one for each night Sage survived in the woods. (We’ll add a link to the raffle, once it’s online.)
And while folks around the world are marveling at Estrada saving Sage, Estrada is marveling at how much Sage’s story is bringing together a community — giving people hope, making them believe that “love never fails.”
“I can’t emphasize enough the amount of support we’ve received from everyone,” Cole said to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “It’s been amazing. Since she’s returned home people have been bring by snacks for her; one neighbor cooked her a steak.”
“People are just coming together, celebrating Sage. It’s a huge, huge blessing,” says Estrada. “I just wanted to get my neighbor’s dog home.”
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