Our beloved dog Willy decided to set out on an adventure of his own on Saturday, January 17. During the week-long search for him, we assumed he was gone for good as the days went by with no results, but because of good neighbors, true friends, love and lots of hope, the outcome became our own little miracle.
We were in St. George when we got the call from a friend that he was loose. We headed home right away, starting with the search in Tom’s Canyon and posting the situation on social media in hopes of more eyes being able to spot him. We thought for sure he would come home later that night. We searched around Parry Lodge where someone posted that they had spotted him, which turned into searching all over town, the golf course, the Ranchos, Cedar Heights, and the reservoir.
On Sunday, we woke up early and began the search by driving all over town, hiking up K Hill, Raven Trail and Roadrunner Trail hoping to see a flash of white fur. That night before dark, we got a phone call that he had been spotted in La Estancia, so we headed that direction. As we were hiking, we met a couple who had spotted him in the boxed canyon of Tom’s Canyon, but he wouldn’t come to them. We literally ran that way to get him. By the time we got there, I spotted him high up in the canyon! I yelled for Willy to climb down. He looked like he was trying to make his way down but kept moving to a higher ledge. As rocks started falling, all I could think was he might fall off that ledge. Willy continued trying to move, but more rocks came down, and then he was out of our sight.
Don (my husband) finally came around the corner and decided to climb up the rocks where I saw him last. Luckily there was a full moon, and we had a small flashlight, but he seemed to have vanished. We despondently returned home where I gave my friend Leslie an update. She had also been looking for him, and suggested we go back out with headlamps. She came with me this time, but we were not able to spot any sign of him. We were incredibly discouraged. Where was Willy?
Our friends offered to drive us around in their jeep to help us continue the search on Monday morning in Hog Canyon. After the jeep broke both axels, we made our way over by Pugh’s Canyon overlooking some of the homes by the golf course and decided to worm our way down without a trail, which was very scary to me as I am not a fan of heights if there is no trail or railing. After making it out of that section, we needed to get to the Indian Dance Hall to get to the trail that would lead us down.
To top it all off, I felt in my pocket and discovered my phone was missing. We tried looking for it a short distance back, but I was too scared to go back any further and told my friend to forget about it! It wasn’t worth it. My friend had left her coat and hat and used that as an excuse to go farther back to look for my phone even though I told her not to worry about it. She returned with her coat, hat and my phone! That’s a true friend right there.
We continued down the mountain to the dancehall, looking all around the edges. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, they said we were going to have to go back to the top. I was freaking out inside, but they were as cool as a cucumber. We ended up calling their family members to come get us in their razor UTV. Boy, was that a sight for sore eyes.
After we got home, Don and I headed out again toward Tom’s Canyon, this time with a drone to try and get a better view, but still no Willy. Another friend came to help, bringing her dog Lucy who is Willy’s sister, thinking she could flush him out. Don climbed back up to the ledge where I last saw Willy, which made me very nervous because being that high, with one slip, he could fall down. He found the tracks and was certain they were Willy’s. We took one of our jackets and some of Willy’s food closer to the construction site where he was last seen thinking he might come down with the scent of food.
At this point we weren’t sure if he was still in the canyon, across town, picked up by someone or even alive. So many people on social media were commenting and wanting to help. Many were out hiking or biking looking for Willy.
On Tuesday, we continued with our hiking and droning efforts. Each day got more and more discouraging, but we had to stay hopeful, telling ourselves we weren’t giving up. He was out there somewhere needing help.
On Wednesday, we went back out to Tom’s Canyon with Willy’s favorite blanket and more food, again hoping he would make his way to the scent. We ran into my dear friend Les who had been looking for him every day as well. What a friend. She had her backpack, packed a lunch and was planning on going up Cliffside to scan the area. People were so awesome. Some from our church were also hiking around looking for him.
On Thursday, we went back up the canyon to find his blanket and food exactly the same as when we had left it.
Don and I decided to go out to Pugh’s Canyon Friday morning, just not knowing where to even look. As we were hiking up Pugh’s Canyon, we got another phone call, saying someone had spotted Willy in El Pueblo. We hightailed it to El Pueblo, but on the way received another call that it was the wrong dog. What a letdown! But we were also grateful people were still on the lookout for Willy.
Saturday morning looked cold and windy as we headed back out to Tom’s Canyon, sitting on a knoll and watching through binoculars for three hours hoping for any sign of movement. Some of our friends came out and put a couple of trail cams out by some water and also where we left his favorite blanket.
On Sunday, I got a text from Merilee Ford telling me she saw Willy high up on the cliffs of the K Hill. She had her friend Beverly Vogel bring some binoculars. They said he stood there in the same place for a while and then moved. I was in Cedar City, so I called Don who didn’t answer. I called my good friend Les; you know her by now! She was able to get ahold of Don and they headed right out to meet the ladies who saw him. Even with the drone out again, they could not spot Willy!
I left Cedar to head home, while Don went back home to get better shoes and went up the Pugh’s side, just below the dancehall, to look. While they were up there someone could see Willy from their home and hollered to tell them. All of a sudden, Don could hear Willy whining under the ledge. We think Willy could hear Don’s voice. Les was one ledge down below Don and went down another ledge where she saw his head poke up. Don was above him, he headed down, but to get to him Don had to crawl on his belly to the ledge and reach down to grab him out. While this was going on, people on the hiking trail in that area were asked to hang back while they were trying to get Willy down so he wouldn’t get spooked. Thank you for those who did that.
Willy had been ledged up! We’re not sure how long he was in that spot but when Don pulled him out Willy clung to him and practically laid on him. Don called me right away to tell me they got him. I was so relieved and grateful. They were then able to get down the mesa, which was not an easy task when a dog is practically on your lap! Needless to say, they got off that hill all in one piece.
We are so extremely grateful to everyone who took part in this rescue. From all those who were on social media giving encouragement, offering prayers, to the ones out looking, hiking, biking, out on ATVs, droning for us, and to Merilee and Beverly for spotting him, thank you so much. What a wonderful community we live in. We thank all of you from the bottom of our hearts. We even had people come into the store where I work and brought Willy a card and treats. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.
We know Willy had a will to live; he’s strong and resilient. He is so happy to be back home safe and sound, and his buddy Sadie is happy to have him back too. He’s lost a little weight, and has a small scratch under his chin, but surprisingly no big cuts or cactus thorns. Miraculously, his pads are in pretty good shape, not worn like we thought they’d be. He’s rambunctious and doing well. It’s like he didn’t skip a beat!
Because of this beautiful place where we call home, it is nothing short of a miracle how everything turned out, thanks to an amazing community and the people who live in it.