As Shaniya Ferguson and her fiancé Victor Williams were enjoying a holiday vacation away, her two dogs were off with their babysitters on a quick sled trip to the Lucky Boy snowy terrain, the day after Christmas. As the two lab mixes were running in the snow it was apparent that Duke, the two year old black lab that is also a pointer mix, found an irresistible, instinctive scent which took both dogs away from the group and lost into the forest area.
Ferguson received a phone call that evening, sadly expressing apology and concern for the two missing dogs. She cut her vacation short to return and begin a frantic search for her two missing pets, knowing the nighttime temperatures were in the low digits and the risk of losing them to death would be great.
“We were taking trips up there, sometimes twice a day and trying all kinds of ideas to find them. Once when I was out with my dad, we spotted Avery, our one year old tan lab, but instead of coming to us she ran as if she was in trouble or she was trying to lead us to Duke. Either way we lost her in the steep hills and I was heartbroken,” Ferguson stated.
The rugged terrain and the harsh weather conditions were hampering her search and that of many others, so Ferguson took to posting the missing dogs on many websites. She widened her search to include nearby areas of California, in hopes that someone had possibly picked them up while exploring the area. Ferguson continued to share her loss to areas as far as Reno and along the 395 route, trusting that someone either saw them or had secured them somewhere. Community responders contacted local residents and the Borealis mine, as well as watching for them on any trips they made throughout the weeks following and yet no one had found the missing duo.
Then on Jan. 6, a full 12 days following the dogs’ absence, Hawthorne resident Duane Pittman took his two sons, Jimmy and Jacob and a friend Noah Franklin, Jr. up the pass to have a few hours in the snow.
“We were four miles out of town and another eight miles up the pass when we stopped at a snowy clearing. It was a cold 39 degrees that afternoon and we were taking a few trails when we spotted fresh canine prints. I saw the Facebook story and told the boys to try tracking the prints. Jacob spotted Avery and admitted to seeing Duke briefly, so we felt there was a chance we could save them. Then Avery circled away from us and we lost her into a deep wash that was too hard to climb and by then Jimmy wanted to warm his feet in the car.”
As the Pittman’s were sitting in the vehicle, Avery came out onto the road and stood facing them while making eye contact. Her body had the thinness of a grey hound, with her ribs exposed and her hip bones showing a ghostly image. Jimmy was instructed by his dad to slowly get out of the car and call the dog, which he did and Avery came to him. Following this exchange, Avery wound up jumping into the back seat then she leaned up to give a grateful lick to Duane in the front seat. Avery’s crisis was over.
Once Duane connected with Ferguson, the two were reunited. The young boys shared what a New Year miracle it had been to locate Avery after seeing her frail condition, including tree pitch on her coat and a few cuts on her paws and legs. Ferguson confirmed that Avery was a lover of children and without traffic, distractions or a lot of confusion it all combined perfectly to make her rescue a success.
As Avery currently rests in her recovery mode and remains on a special diet to ease her into a safe weight gain, Ferguson is sadly still looking for Duke. She described him as a roamer and the dog that explores with his nose. Of the two lost dogs, Duke is a bit older and bulkier, so Ferguson felt he is better equipped to catch food, but weather conditions are still a main concern in finding him alive.
“I can’t thank everyone enough for bringing Avery home. The boys did a great job and will come to visit her once she is stronger. At least with the snow she wasn’t dehydrated and it did bring the boys out to just the right location to get her. I am so grateful they didn’t give up on catching her,” Ferguson expressed.