Meet Russ, the pit bull-terrier mix who somehow fended for himself in South Lake Tahoe for several months after being separated from his family in the Caldor fire, but was found alive and is now reunited with his humans.

In San Francisco, lost dog stories have lately skewed towards French bulldogs being stolen, presumably for their resale value, though these tales do often end in happy reunions. Nature can be a lot more unforgiving to lost dogs in rural areas, particularly in the case of the terrifying Caldor Fire evacuations of August, when many pets and livestock animals either ran off in terror, or had to be left behind when owners evacuated.

Image: TLC 4 Furry Friends via Facebook

Such was the case with the pit bull-terrier mix seen above named Russ. "Russ (the dog) had gotten scared and run off from his owner’s vehicle while he was in Tahoe for a job….in August!,” according to a Facebook post from the South Lake Tahoe animal rescue group TLC 4 Furry Friends. “The owner made a report to Animal Services and searched for Russ, but was then evacuated with the rest of the south shore due to the fire. It was assumed that Russ had been lost for good.”

Apparently we underestimated Russ’s survival skills, as the Chronicle reports that Russ was found in the snow more than four months later. An alert backcountry skier spotted Russ on December 16, and after a days-long rescue and rehabilitation operation, the Associated Press reports the dog has been “reunited with his family, who live in Riverside County.”


Russ “was in the snow, apparently unable to move, and was growling at the individuals who observed it,” according to the Facebook post. “El Dorado County Animal Services Officer Kyle Shumaker was notified, but he was unable to access the area due to the five-foot snow depth and steep terrain.  Wendy called upon TLC 4 Furry Friends & Tahoe PAWS volunteers, who suited up with snowshoes, dog rescue equipment, and a sled from Officer Shumaker.  The dog was tracked up the mountain, and finally located under a tree not moving.  The volunteers were elated when he opened his eyes and lifted his head.”

“As a rescue organization... this is what we’re supposed to do,” animal tracker Leona Allen told the Chronicle. “I’ve worked some pretty gnarly rescues, this probably being the top. I keep reliving the moment when he opened his eyes and lifted his head, and just the joy and elation inside of me was overwhelming. It’s one more life that gets to live happy and warm and safe.”

Despite the dog’s superhuman ability to survive on his own for multiple months, a major reason Russ is now reunited with his family is because he was microchipped.

“This is a great reminder that microchipping your pet and maintaining the registration in your name is important,” TLC 4 Furry Friends said in their Facebook post. “It’s also essential that you report your pet to the local Animal Services office if it goes missing.”

Related: Dog Lost For A Decade Found In Fort Funston, Identified By Microchip [SFist]

Image: TLC 4 Furry Friends via Facebook