This story originally appeared at InspireMore.
It’s that awful, gut-churning feeling no pet parent ever wants to experience — discovering their animal is missing.
One family lived with the dread for 11 long days after their beloved golden retriever, Max, disappeared on the 4th of July. They were on vacation in Madison, Virginia, when the dog slipped out of their room. They posted fliers while resort staff, rangers from the nearby Shenandoah National Park, and other people in the area searched relentlessly. Still, they couldn’t find Max.
Hiking buddies Kelly McDuffie and Danny Hartung had seen the fliers as well. That’s why, during their hike in the park on July 15, they immediately recognized the sweet face poking out from behind the undergrowth.
Kelly had actually wanted to go on a different trail to a waterfall, but Danny convinced her to take this one. On the hike, she’d been mentioning how hot it was when all of a sudden, they heard a spring.
“We went off the trail to the spring, then Danny saw some ripe blackberries, so we went a little further to pick them,” Kelly wrote in a Facebook post. “Then Danny exclaimed, “There’s a dog!”
They knew this sweetheart had to be the missing dog from the flier. But after spending nearly two weeks alone, hungry, and scared, Max wasn’t as enthusiastic as the two humans in front of him. The poor thing growled. That wouldn’t deter his heroes, though.
“Anyone who knows me knows I’m very afraid of dogs, but my motherly instinct kicked in and I wasn’t going to leave this area without him,” Kelly said. So she and Danny decided to win his trust by way of his stomach. “After feeding him 3 boiled eggs, a fig bar, and lots of water he warmed up.”
Unfortunately, Max was so exhausted he couldn’t walk, let alone make it all the way down by himself. And it was too far to carry him. But their luck changed when they realized they were near a fire road and had cellphone service! They called nearby park rangers, who arrived with a stretcher.
For the first time in days, Max could relax. And when his family heard the news, they were thrilled. They wasted no time driving down from Washington, D.C. to pick up their beloved friend and take him to a vet.
It turns out Max had lost 10 pounds during his stay in the forest. His back legs were weak and his paws scratched up as well. He also had a fever, but otherwise, he was fine thanks to his rescuers.
“It was a long day, but saving sweet Max made it all worth it,” Kelly said. “All of the stars aligned that day!”
Now the white-faced cutie is back to his old self and enjoying the good life once again at home. He certainly deserves it after everything he’s been through. And his mom couldn’t be more grateful he’s finally safe.
Be sure to share this heartwarming rescue with your friends!