Reporting Rachel Slavik
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – A dog that went missing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for two weeks is back home with his St. Paul family.
JJ, a border collie mix, ran off while camping in the BWCA with a friend of his owners. JJ is skittish around strangers and was startled by a camper walking on a path. At the same time, lightning hit and JJ took off into the woods.
A good Samaritan helped reunite the dog with his family on Tuesday.
The simple tricks we all teach our pets have never been so important to 10-year-old Ava Rohleder.
“I think he’s very happy to be home,” she said.
Up until Tuesday, she and her family wondered if they’d ever see their dog again.
“I was very sad,” Rohleder said. “I was super scared for him.”
“You feel him, he’s just bones,” said Nicole Paradise, JJ’s owner.
The border collie’s thin body is the only sign of his two-week ordeal in the BWCA.
“He just took off and ran,” Paradise said.
After 11 days without any solid leads, the family started giving up hope of his return.
“The house is so empty without him,” Rohleder said. “We had started looking to get another dog at pet adoption organizations, because walking in a house, without a dog, when you always have one there, is just sad.”
A sighting posted on a message board brought renewed faith. A camper spotted JJ near Sawbill Lake. Nicole and her husband, Greg, jumped in the car and headed north.
“If there was a chance, he was still OK, we couldn’t not try,” Paradise said.
JJ started visiting Mike Raub’s campsite over the weekend.
He and his fellow campers fed the dog spaghetti and pancakes, but could never get close enough to put a leash on him.
On Monday, Nicole and Greg ran into Raub while searching for the dog and learned that JJ was at Raub’s campsite.
However, when they arrived, the dog had run off.
The couple stayed nearly four hours waiting for JJ’s return, but the threat of bad weather forced them to leave the woods. A short time later, JJ returned to the campsite.
“Part of us was thinking, what if this doesn’t happen? What if he takes off running again,” Paradise said.
But this time, Raub was ready. He left a trial of hot dogs into a tent. That’s where JJ stayed until his owners arrived.
“It was unbelievable, unbelievable,” Paradise said. “Who gives their tent to a dog that’s been lost in the woods for two weeks?”
While Ava and her parents will never know how JJ survived two weeks in the wild, but they see him as more of a house dog.
“I’m going to be very protective of him,” Rohleder said.
JJ was about seven miles away from where he went missing. The vet treated JJ for tick and mosquito bites, but otherwise the dog is healthy and expected to make a full recovery.