Story at a glance

  • In August, a pit bull mix named Russ got scared and ran away from his owner who was visiting the Lake Tahoe area for a job opportunity.
  • The owner was unable to find the dog as the Caldor Wildfire broke out, forcing evacuations in the area.
  • The dog was found four months later trapped in snow and was rescued. Russ was eventually reunited with his owner thanks to his microchip.

A dog that went missing during the Caldor Fire that burned in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California and threatened Lake Tahoe last summer has been reunited with his owner months after the blaze broke out.  

According to a Facebook post from the nonprofit organization “Tahoe Paws,” a pit bull mix named Russ got scared and ran away from his owner in August when they were visiting the Lake Tahoe area.  

The owner made a report to Animal Services and searched the area for the missing dog, but they were then evacuated from the area along with residents from the south shore due to the devastating Caldor Fire that ultimately scorched nearly 222,000 acres of land and destroyed more than 1,000 structures over several months.  

“It was assumed that Russ had been lost for good,” Tahoe PAWS said in a post.  

Fast-forward four months later.  

On Dec. 16, Tahoe PAWS Executive Director Wendy Jones was notified about a Facebook post from a skier who said he came across a dog trapped in deep snow and unable to move west of South Lake Tahoe. Following a year of both extreme heat and drought, Lake Tahoe was slammed with snow in December, clocking more than 17 feet of snow over the entire month 

As local animal services officials were unable to access the area due to snow and steep terrain, Jones and other volunteers from TLC 4 Furry Friends, an animal search-and-rescue nonprofit, geared up to track the dog down and carry out a rescue mission.  

“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. They were able to place him on the sled - on top of a volunteer so he was kept warm and calm,” the post said. 

Russ was turned over to a veterinarian to make sure he was OK, and animal services officers discovered the dog was microchipped and tracked down his owner in Riverside County in Southern California.  

Four months after being separated, the dog was reunited with his owner, who was “ecstatic” to find out Russ was alive and well.  


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Published on Jan 10, 2022