Hikers at Shenandoah National Park had a surprise last week when they came across a dog in need of help.
Max, the golden retriever, went missing at the national park on July 4 and was found 11 days later by hikers who happened to be in the right place at the right time.
It happened last Monday, which was the last day of Kelly McDuffie, of Tampa, Florida, and her friend Danny’s six-day visit to the park. The duo decided to go on one last hike.
It was hot, so when they unexpectedly heard the sound of water, they walked off Stony Man Trail and found a refreshing spring. Nearby, they spotted a patch of ripe blackberries and decided to pick some.
“I took a picture of Danny picking the blackberries, and then, a few minutes later, he said, ‘There’s a dog back here,'” McDuffie said.
The golden retriever had settled himself in a low, partially-hidden spot.
Because posters with a photo of Max had been put up in key locations around the park, the hikers immediately recognized him.
“We very excitedly went over to him, and we were shocked when he growled at us, because we just wanted to help him,” McDuffie said. It took about half an hour for them to gain the dog’s trust.
McDuffie and her friend pulled out some food they had brought with them, and fed Max a fig bar and some hard-boiled eggs.
“One of them he just swallowed whole without even chewing it up,” McDuffie said.
She had picked up someone’s trash that she found along the trail, including a plastic water bottle, so she used that to bring Max some water. Eventually, she unrolled an emergency rope bracelet she had with her, connected it to the dog’s collar and tried to pull him out of his spot.
Max stood up, but he couldn’t walk. The hikers weren’t sure if the dog was injured, but they knew he was too heavy to carry very far. So, they walked a short distance to a fire road where they could get cell service, and called park rangers, who came with a stretcher to carry the dog to safety.
The dog was taken to a vet, who determined that the pooch had lost 10 pounds.
“He was not injured, but his body was starting to shut down. He couldn’t walk because he was exhausted,” McDuffie said.
Max is now back with his family, and is going to be fine.
“It was definitely a miracle, that combination of things that led us to find Max,” McDuffie said.
The dog’s owners offered the hikers reward money for finding the pooch, but they turned it down. “We don’t need a reward for saving their family dog,” McDuffie said.