March 7 (UPI) -- A blind dog that wandered away from her family's California home and into the nearby woods was found seven days later in the Santa Cruz mountains.
Beth Cole of Boulder Creek said her family's blind Labrador retriever, Sage, wandered into the forest Feb. 24 after Cole's family believed the dog had been brought in for the night.
"Our neighbors and other members of the community helped us search day and night for a week," Cole told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. "We looked everywhere."
Cole said she was concerned about dropping temperatures at night and recent mountain lion sightings in the area.
"We'd almost given up hope," Cole told KSBW-TV.
Dan Estrada, Cole's neighbor, was out hiking with friend Victor Lopez and two dogs Saturday when they spotted a white shape in a nearby stream.
"At first I thought it was a garbage bag in the water," Estrada said. "My vision is not very good so it wasn't until I got closer that I saw it's actually a white lab laying there lifeless in this stream -- her chin just above water level."
Estrada said he feared Sage was dead until she lifted her head slightly.
"When we saw she was alive, I jumped in the stream and hugged her," Estrada said. "Man, it was really emotional."
He said Sage was too weak to move on her own and her current location was about to turn dangerous.
"It had been dry that week and the new rain was moving in," Estrada said. "When we found her she didn't have the energy to lift herself out. That streambed would have been flowing during a rainstorm."
Estrada, a paramedic and EMT for the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department, slung Sage over his shoulders and carried her out of the woods.
Cole said Sage, exhausted but uninjured, is resting and recovering at home.
"We've always loved our community, but this really re-enforced what a special place this is," Cole said.
Estrada rejected a $1,000 reward from Cole's family, asking instead that the money be donated to an animal cause. He and Lopez created some custom dog leashes for each day that Sage was missing and are planning to auction them off at a March 18 celebration to benefit Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter.