The new year, now a joyous one for the Gaudio family of North Bend, started off with one of their own missing. On a Dec. 30 hike to Mailbox Peak, Mike and Cindy Gaudio’s 6-year-old Boxer, Yogi, got separated from their hiking group, and was lost in the wilderness for the next three-plus days.
“How he walked into that fire camp… It is amazing that he survived that,” Cindy told the Record by phone last week, just two days after Yogi was found at the North Bend Fire Training Academy, between the Middle Fork and Interstate-90, Jan. 2. “We were so scared. He’s a shorthair boxer, and with the temperatures we had and the snow….”
A winter storm blanketed the North Bend area over the New Year’s weekend, dropping temperatures to below freezing for the next four days. The forecast of the storm is what prompted the Gaudios, who traditionally take a New Year’s Eve hike with friends, to make the hike a day earlier.
They group met in the afternoon and started off with the well-behaved Yogi wearing a collar, but running off leash.
Gaudio noted that they do keep him on a leash most of the time, but take the leash off when it’s possible on hikes, to allow him to get more exercise.
“If we’re out walking, we like to let him run back and forth between the two of us,” she said. “Typically he’s right there beside us.”
But as the group climbed, something snagged the dog’s attention and he went after it. After about a mile and a half, Gaudio noticed “he was gone,” she said, so she backtracked down the trail to search for him, while others in the group continued up, calling for Yogi.
They stayed at the trailhead until 8 p.m., asking every returning group if they’d seen Yogi, but none had.
“My husband spent the night out there, in case he came home, or came back down,” Gaudio said.
For the next three days, the family searched for him, distributed “lost dog” flyers throughout the Valley, posted photos and appeals for help to the DNR, the nearby Valley Camp, social media, a Boxer rescue group and Craiglist, and, after hearing from animal search and rescue expert Harry Oakes, following some very specific suggestions, including contacting area animal shelters and setting up a shelter at the trailhead, in case he retraced his steps to the trailhead.
“We were busy all weekend,” Gaudio said.
So were their friends, and a broader community of hikers who’d heard about the missing dog.
“It wasn’t just us going up there, there were people out there hiking on the mountain that we didn’t even know, were looking for our dog,” Gaudio said. Friends of their adult sons, Tony and Nicolas, joined the search, too. “He’s a family member,” she said.
Yogi is a sturdy dog, and was well conditioned for long hikes over rough terrain. Since he was about a year old, Gaudio said, the family has taken him on many long hikes, and that probably helped him survive his ordeal.
“He’s a great hiker, he’s like a little mountain goat,” she said. “He’s been up Red Mountain, Snoqualmie Pass, on very shaley hikes, Kendall Katwalk, Guye Peak.”
Knowing that, though, did little to ease their worries.
“I found out (Wednesday), that there’s about 30 cougars in that area,” Gaudio said. “When my husband and I went out hiking Monday, we saw some cougar tracks, and our hearts just sank.
A call from the Fire Training Academy Tuesday afternoon, though, changed everything.
“On Tuesday, they came in and they found a dog in the shelter,” Gaudio said. It was Yogi – and a scared Yogi who couldn’t be coaxed inside until the men on staff stopped trying and a woman staffer called to him.
When Cindy got the call from the academy, she said she was so excited, she could hardly write their phone number down. Her husband, Mike was excited, too.
“He couldn’t even dial the number correctly,” Gaudio said. “It took him four tries to do it… then he went out there, and sure enough, they had our dog.”
Yogi, “just kissed the heck out of” Mike when they were reunited, and the whole family got the same treatment when they got home that night.
The dog had some scratches and a torn pad, but no apparent frostbite.
“He definitely lost about three to five pounds,” Gaudio said, but mostly, he needed to rest. “He’s just tired. He got his wiggle back a little bit yesterday.”
The family has a few ideas on what may have happened to Yogi on his adventure, but they can’t know for sure.
“He couldn’t have slept much out there,” Gaudio said, adding that he’s still jittery at night, possibly from something that scared him.
“If he could talk, man, what a story he might tell!” she said.
Yogi’s story going forward will probably be different, too. Gaudio said “Maybe we’ll keep him on the leash a little bit more,” and she’s looking into tracking devices that can attach to his collar — which already had a blinking light on it “so you can always see him.”
For now, though, the family is just enjoying having their dog back and grateful for all the amazing support that they got from people throughout the search. Gaudio was especially touched when she heard how many of her friends responded to the search.
“They were actually going home at night and giving their own dogs an extra hug,” she said.