OCT. 15, 2015 UPDATE: For being such a loyal friend, Tillie has been honored as a “Washingtonian of the Day” by Gov. Jay Inslee. During a ceremony today, Tillie received a written proclamation as well as a Washington apple pin on a ribbon tied around her neck, the Seattle Times reports. The governor encouraged everyone in Washington “to celebrate the bravery and loyalty of this canine companion.”
Best buddies Tillie, an 11-year-old Irish Setter mix, and Phoebe, a 4-year-old Basset Hound, went missing from their Vashon Island, Wash., home over a week ago.
In photos that have gone viral, the dogs were finally found Monday in a ravine, where Phoebe had fallen into a old water basin and couldn’t get out.
“For nearly a week, Tillie stayed by her side with the exception of the few minutes of each day when she went for help,” the volunteer-run nonprofit Vashon Island Pet Protectors (VIPP) wrote on its Facebook page.
Volunteers from the rescue organization had been searching for the dogs for days. Vashon Island resident Joe Curiel phoned VIPP Monday and said a “reddish dog” had been approaching him on his property for a few days. The dog would then run back into the ravine.
“So with a needle-in-the-haystack hope, we made our way into the ravine and after a bit of searching, finally heard that sweet sound we have been waiting for all week,” VIPP wrote. “A small, one-woof response when we called out, ‘Tillie.'”
When the volunteers found Tillie, she was laying next to a cistern, her head resting on the concrete wall. They feared the worst.
“We knew that meant Phoebe was inside the cistern, and every breath was held and every doggie prayer offered that the peek over the rim would somehow find her safe,” VIPP wrote.
The prayers worked. Phoebe was sitting on top of a pile of concrete rubble, safely above the water.
Although Phoebe and Tillie were hungry and cold, they are both doing well, USA TODAY reports.
The two dogs’ experience is a good example of why you shouldn’t give up looking for a lost pet.
“Hope is an awfully hard thing to keep open and alive in the face of heartbreak, but it so important for happy endings for missing pets,” VIPP’s Amy Carey told USA TODAY. “Or even for unhappy endings with closure.”
Phoebe and Millie’s dog dad, B.J. Duft, told ABC News he was thrilled when Carey called him with the news that the two had been found.
“I was absolutely not surprised to learn that Tillie had stood by her side the whole time,” he said. “She’s a very caring, loving and nurturing dog and the two of them are best friends.”
Duft has had Tillie since she was a puppy. He adopted Phoebe two years ago, after the two became buddies at a doggie day care.
During a party Duft was hosting Sept. 7, the two BFFs escaped out the front door that someone had left open.
“Tillie would never leave even if the gate was left open, but she’s best friends with Phoebe, and so when Phoebe follows her little Basset Hound nose, Tillie always goes with her to make sure she’s OK,” Duft said. “They’re best pals — inseparable.”
Duft told ABC News he’s ordered GPS collars for the dogs so they never get lost again.
And to prevent other dogs from getting stuck in the 90-year-old cistern on his property, Curiel used a jackhammer to destroy it, KING5 reported Sept. 18. Curiel had already partially filled the cistern so children wouldn’t get stuck, but it was still too deep for a dog.
On its Facebook page Monday, VIPP thanked Curiel for alerting them to Tillie and also thanked “the awesome and amazing Miss Tillie.”
“A true friend and a humbling example of the power of love,” VIPP wrote.
To make a donation to help Vashon Island Pet Protectors save more pets, click here.
Photos via Facebook