What I learned from the worst 18hrs of my life
Usually I know how to begin, however today I am having a hard time finding my words. Perhaps I should step back and let Pax share his side of the most scary 18 hours of my life, and tell you all about how he survived being lost in the high Alps on the coldest, rainiest and foggiest day of the season.
My dear humans!
I can’t believe how slow most of you are in the morning. Instead of getting up and going, most of you take so much time to make coffee, and wash up with soap (sorry, but I find this habit truly disgusting! Rolling in some fresh poop in the park would smell so much better!).
On the morning of the greatest adventure of my life, my humans took forever to get out of the house. I was hoping they would forget their cameras, so we wouldn’t need to take any pictures, because there is so much to do, see, and smell out in the beautiful mountains!
Four of my humans’ friends joined us for this hike, along with a three month old puppy named Yoko.
Yoko is super cute, but weighing only four pounds, to me she looked much more like a stuffed toy than a dog — and she got to be carried almost the whole way! I am not even sure if she is really a dog.
Our journey started in the Alpine town of Wangs, where gondolas are decorated with stuffed toys and grandma’s curtains. Seriously, we had a big stuffed beaver in the gondola on the way up.
But what I liked the most were the two open-air chairlifts. I learned to ride on them just the day before and I really love them. Did you know that in Switzerland, they let dogs ride on gondolas and chairlifts?
I love chairlifts mainly because I can watch the cows, sheep, and goats from up above. I like to listen to the cow bells while I look around for marmots (marmots actually played one of the main roles in my big adventure).
That day, we hiked in the Pizol Alpine region. At first I thought that Pizol was the Swiss name for Pizza, which would mean I might find some on the ground, but then I realized there was no pizza in Pizol!
I learned how to hike last year, and I love being high up in the mountains because I love the open meadows! All the smells, the lakes, and no computers for my humans to waste time on. When we go hiking we do have to stop to take some pictures, but it is a small price to pay for all the fun we have.
My humans are usually too slow so I go back and forth, checking the trail up ahead, and then running to tell them about what I found. Usually there are a lot of lakes in the high alpine, and some of them even have fish! Swimming and fishing is my passion. There is nothing better than getting wet and muddy, except maybe rolling in poop and chasing marmots when they whistle. Peter tells me I must have been an otter or a dolphin in my previous life — but who knows!?! I do love chasing fish!
I find it strange that marmots whistle when I am near, it is almost as if they are teasing me, because, based on my DNA, when they whistle I have to run and find them!
At first the pizza marmots, ehrm, I mean the Pizol marmots, seemed to be kind of lazy in the morning. Maybe they were drinking coffee like humans do? But in the afternoon, at the last lake they wanted to play; oh my goodness, what a thrill that was! As I said, it is not my fault that when I heard them whistle, I had to go. Something took over me, and I just had to run!
But when the fun was over, I came back to the trail and my humans were gone! At first I thought they were playing hide and seek with me, but then I realized they weren’t. It was dark, foggy, and I was all by myself. I had no idea what was happening, and all I could think to do was run back and forth along the five hour long trail we had hiked.
Normally I am a pretty cool dog, but this time I was scared and hungry, and I felt so alone. All I could hear were cow bells in the distance and the relentless rain and wind. Even the marmots went to sleep. Those little buggers got me into trouble with all of their whistling, and then went to sleep in their cushy little dens while I was left lost, cold, and wet.
I tried to sleep a little, but then I started to worry. Perhaps my humans left me because I rolled in poop a few days ago? Was that it…?😔
I was hungry and scared, and my feet were hurting, but I remembered my dad told me I was a Border Collie. It’s kind of a funny name, but he also told me that Border Collies were good at being out in the meadows and counting sheep. So I started counting and counting all the way up to 1000 and back, and after many many sheep, the dawn came.
But let me pass the keyboard to my dad so he can finish the story.
Here he goes:
We were making our way down to the last lake on the trail when I noticed that Pax wasn’t fishing in the water, it was then that I knew something was wrong because this wasn’t like him.
We spent 3 hours looking for him in the area, but he was nowhere to be found. He probably became disoriented and ran the other way on the trail. It was pouring, foggy, and getting dark out. We hoped to find Pax down at the bottom of the chairlift, as we could not find him at the lake.
A big section of the trail down was covered with an ankle deep mixture of mud and cow manure, a common occurrence in Switzerland because many mountain trails cross the high alpine cow pastures.
We were cold, exhausted, and terrified. Pax was lost and my imagination took me to dark thoughts of him being injured, and even worse, the idea of never learning what had happened to him. I also thought about all the people who have ever lost their loved ones. I now had firsthand knowledge of what that feels like.
My body was flooded with adrenaline, and my heart was pounding. We hiked down to the nearest mountain cabin and booked rooms to spend a sleepless night in, communicating with friends and family.
I went out to check the door a few times, the darkness and cold were menacing and frightening visions kept flashing in my head.
We had no choice but to wait.
I have always said that in its essence humanity is good, and now we were experiencing exactly that. Thousands of kind and caring people reached out to us with support. People all over were sharing the news to help increase the chances of bringing Pax home.
We were speechless and grateful.
The hike back up — on what we nicknamed “cow shit trail” — was very long, slippery and nerve-racking. We combed the area around the lake, I even scrambled up a steeper slope to make sure we didn’t miss any blind spots.
I called the search and rescue folks to let them know, and at that moment we heard a faint but clear howl. Is that a wolf? I thought at first, but then the howling and cries got louder and louder. We all called out in unison,
I heard someone calling. What is that? What do I hear? Could that be my people?!?? I realized it was, it was my peeeeeopleeee!!!!!! I howled the same way I do when I hear the ambulance in town; I howled very loudly so they wouldn’t miss me, and I ran down to the lake, and back up again to where I saw them last.
They came back for me! So, they didn’t leave me behind because I am a bad dog who rolls in poop!
When our friends and my partner saw Pax, he was running along the lake and up the hill. I was a little further behind them at that time, so I only saw the moment of their reunion on video, which I will share with you below.
I just heard them calling, “Paxi!! Paxi!! Peter, Pax is here, and he is fine!!!” All of a sudden he appeared from behind the hill, running towards me. When he ran into my arms, I completely broke down, Pax was whimpering and everyone was crying.
The long and horrible, yet life changing, 18 hours were over.
As soon as we had a signal on our phones, we began letting everyone know he had been found. The phone has not stopped getting messages and calls ever since.
We will be forever grateful to everyone involved and we would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts. ❤️
You, my team, my family, and friends have all made those very terrifying 18 hours much more bearable in so many ways. Just knowing that we weren’t alone was so helpful.
I can’t stop thinking of all the missing dogs and people who have not been reunited, and the terrible grief and suffering they must be going through. I am prepared at any time, day or night, to help whenever needed.
I have known for many years that there is no better lesson in life than learning firsthand. Losing Pax has made me understand that no matter how well trained and behaved a dog might be, accidents happen, and every dog should have a GPS tracking device when off-leash. By the way, if you know of a good one (especially if it works in a no-signal area of a satellite network), please let me know. I appreciate everyone who has already reached out with suggestions about these devices and will be looking into it further.
As for Pax, he is doing okay; he’s just tired and a little bit shaken. His foot pads are quite worn and red, and his muscles are sore. I gave him a triple dose of FeelGood Omega, which I have found works well at reducing inflammation and helping with skin, joint, and cell repair.
I also sprayed his feet throughout the day with Skin Spray, which I use for any cuts, abrasions, or skin injuries. I always make sure to bring it along on any trips. Accidents and emergencies happen, and it never hurts to have a bottle on hand.
Since this incident, I have been thinking about how I could best express my gratitude. The next monthly donation we make will be to an organization that dedicates their time towards search and rescue for lost dogs and people.
I would like to say a big thank you to Rega, the Swiss search and rescue organization, who helped us by dispatching two of their team members as well as their leader, Thomas. Thank you to the manager of the Hotel Furt, where we stayed after we lost Pax. Thanks also go out to the local officials, police, veterinary clinics, local newspaper, and most of all to you, our friends and family.
I would also like to thank Sandra, Iva, Thomas, Mira, and Dean for holding it all together and helping to bring Pax back.
Sharing this story doesn’t mean that you should never let your dogs off-leash; dogs need freedom. I just urge you to consider putting a GPS dog tracking device on your dogs, so that you can locate them as quickly as possible.
Shit happens, and we need to be prepared. Let’s avoid learning a heartbreaking lesson the hard way.
There is nothing more precious than the lives and presence of those we love. There is nothing more valuable than good friends who are there for us when we need them most. There is nothing more terrifying than fearing for our loved ones safety, and not knowing what has happened to them.
Thank you! ❤️