A Maine family is celebrating a remarkable return home.
Early Wednesday morning, Shyla, a 5-year-old sable shepherd, was brought back to her owners after surviving more than a year in the woods all alone.
“She is the same dog,” said Cindy Ross, Shyla’s owner. “She acts like she did the day she left, honestly.”
On May 3, 2018, Shyla had been out in the yard, off-leash like always, when a gunshot echoed through the forest behind Ross’ and John Mason’s eight-acre property.
Ross’ mother had been watching Shyla. After hearing the noise, the dog bolted into the woods.
Ross found out what happened when she got home and started searching everywhere on the property for Shyla.
“That’s when we realized she was not under the porch, she was gone,” said Ross.
That night, Ross and Mason expanded the search to their street, despite severe storms. They caught a few glimpses of her, but they weren’t able to get her to come to them.
“That was the last time I saw her,” said Ross.
The search for Shyla would last 13 months, taking Ross and Mason to Greene, Pittsfield, Gray, New Gloucester, and eventually to Rangeley.
After spending thousands of dollars and traveling more than 2,000 miles, the couple got a solid tip on Shyla last October.
“That’s when we got the lead that she was in Oquossoc,” Ross explained. “It’s an hour-and-a-half from here.”
Mason, a carpenter, happened to be doing work in the area at the same time residents started reporting seeing a dog that looked a lot like Shyla in the woods near cabins.
“I worked there when she was there and never even knew she was there,” he said. “One of the camps she was at was one I jacked up four years ago.”
It turned out that Shyla ended up using the camp as a shelter, getting in through an unlocked door.
The camp’s owner eventually figured out the dog had been living in there and notified Mason and Ross.
“I went in and found a lot of matted dog hair on the bed,” he said.
Through the winter, people in the area mobilized, leaving food out to keep Shyla around.
Maine Lost Dog Recovery, a volunteer group that helps reunite missing dogs with their owners, put flyers up in the area. A local animal control officer kept an eye out, as well.
Eventually, MLDR gave Ross and Mason a brand new special trap to catch Shyla.
The cage-like structure has food at one end, a door on the other with a trigger that closes a door when the dog steps into it.
At 1 a.m. Wednesday, Shyla finally walked in as Mason watched on a satellite camera.
“It was unreal,” said Mason, who admitted he wasn’t sure the dog would be found as time wore on.
Amazingly, Shyla weighs roughly the same as she did when she left.
She was a little a scruffy, had an ear infection and Lyme disease, and her teeth were worn down a bit. But otherwise, she was fine.
Mason and Ross say they can’t thank MLDR, the animal control officers and others who helped them enough.
They say a local vet treated Shyla this week and didn’t charge them out of elation about the reunification.
“I always had hope,” said Ross, who documented the search in a journal to help cope. “I’m a strong believer that if you have faith, that things will come through for you, and it did. It took time, but in the end, it did.”
They say their message to other dog owners is to have their dogs chipped and wear GPS tracking collars. The couple is making immediate plans to get Shyla those locators.
They also say MLDR has raised thousands of dollars in donations from people who have heard Shyla’s story.
This post was originally posted at http://www.necn.com/news/new-england/Maine-Couple-Reunited-With-Lost-Dog-Who-Spent-Over-a-Year-in-the-Woods-511974041.html.