When nomadic military veteran Rusty Reed opened his camper door to find he beloved dog missing, his heart sank. Timber, a malamute-shepherd mix, vanished into the Utah wilderness, leaving his collar and 50-foot exploring leash behind. Reed retraced the steps taken by the pair on a hiking trail they had walked over the last several days, but found no sign of him.
Reed acquired his cherished pet back in 2009, when he ran into a man in Washington who owed him money. Reed was given the choice of a dog or money. He chose the puppy. “A dog lasts longer than money,” he said.
In April, Reed and Timber met a fellow dog and travel enthusiast while summering near Flagstaff, Arizona. Sue Rogers and Reed exchanged cell phone numbers, but Rogers hadn’t heard from him until Timber went missing.
Reed told her his story of Timber’s disappearance, and how he searched that hilltop for three days. He returned to Arizona when wildfire smoke began to thicken. Feeling grief, guilt, and sure Timber was never to return, Reed disposed of his dog’s food and toys. But he was unable to get rid of the walking leash.
In Oregon, Rogers listened and related the distressing story on her blog at rvsueandcrew.com, which is followed by over 450 people. A retired police officer in New York sent her sympathy and posted a link to Animal Control of Southern Utah. She later shared a report of a shepherd mix found near Loa, Utah, but there was no photo. Rogers contacted the people who found the dog, attaching a photo of Timber.
In Boulder, Colorado, Daisy Pettem read the email and studied the photo. She looked over at the rowdy dog she named Willy, after Wile E. Coyote.
“Timber?” she asked. His ears immediately perked.
Willy, or rather Timber, had come to Pettem after her father found him in early July while camping near Loa, Utah. After having no luck finding the dog’s owner, he brought him home. Pettem knew he must belong to someone, because he was well-behaved and neutered. She looked all over the internet for his family, and posted a “found dog” picture on Fidofinder.com. On August 26th, Sue Rogers contacted Pettem and sent her photos of Timber. They were a match.
Reed was soon on the phone with Pettem. He asked her to put the phone by Timber’s ear to say a phrase he repeated often: “To to Timber, how are you boy? Daddy’s number one Timber.” The dog happily barked and whined.
On the Friday before Labor Day, Reed and his camper pulled into the Pettems’ driveway. The estranged family members were instantly drawn to one another; Timber nearly breaking his leash to get to Reed.
Rogers was contacted with news and photos of the reunion. That evening her blog’s headline read, “Rusty and Timber back together again. What a happy day!”