As they drove along a road in Yellowstone National Park July 23, David Sowers and Laura Gillice’s SUV was hit head-on by another vehicle.
Sowers’ dog Jade, an 18-month-old Australian Shepherd, ran off after a park ranger opened a door of the wrecked SUV.
“I was convinced she was gone,” Sowers told 9News. “I thought she’d probably gone three or four miles deep into the woods.”
Sowers and Gillice, who were both seriously injured in the crash, posted signs around the park, set traps using their clothing and food, and created a Facebook page.
The couple returned to Yellowstone several times from their home in Denver to try to find Jade, with no luck. About 25 people helped them look for the missing Aussie, playing recordings of Sowers calling to Jade on their cellphones.
Sowers and Gillice refused to give up hope, although they were worried about Jade being able to survive on her own.
“The wolves were a concern, of course,” Gillice told 9News. “And just the wildlife and the bears.”
As the weeks passed, several Jade sightings were reported in the Canyon Village area.
About a week ago, Sowers and Gillice (who is an agility trainer with the American Kennel Club) returned yet again to Yellowstone. This time Gillice brought her Australian Shepherd, Leila, along. Leila and Jade are good buddies.
Early each morning, Gillice took Leila for a walk around the Canyon Village area, encouraging her to bark and hopefully attract Jade’s attention.
While walking Leila Friday morning, 43 days after the car accident, Gillice passed a couple who had stopped to take pictures.
“Out of the corner of my eye, I saw this black-and-white movement,” Gillice told the Missoulian. “I asked the couple, because they had binoculars, ‘Is that a deer or a dog?’ She said, ‘It’s a dog.’”
Gillice called Jade’s name. “She just came running to me, like, ‘Where’ve you been, mom?’” she said.
She leashed Jade and walked both dogs back to the hotel where she was staying with Sowers. When the dog dad saw his long-lost Jade, it was a “hugfest,” Gillice told the Missoulian.
“I saw Jade running in the front door and I just lost it,” Sowers told 9News. “She just got up on me and bawled and cried for a long time.”
Sowers said Jade is “skin and bones,” and she has a small cut on her lip, but otherwise she seems to be perfectly fine — which is pretty remarkable considering that she spent seven weeks on her own in the wild.
“She was self sufficient,” Gillice told 9News.
Sowers told the Missoulian he was grateful for all the volunteers who tried to find Jade. “A lot of people have just dedicated their weekends to looking for her,” he said.
“It’s amazing. We didn’t think we’d ever see her again.”
Photos via Facebook