A great journey: Rusty the dog returns after 37 days | SierraSun.com

A great journey: Rusty the dog returns after 37 days

Courtesy photoNick Baimas hugs his dog Rusty. The two were seperated during a car accident that injured Baimas.

After 37 days of wandering in the wilderness, with only tree bark and snow to eat, Rusty finally made human contact.

“My dogs were barking at 4 a.m., going nuts,” said Soda Springs resident Lorraine Tarantino. “I looked outside and saw a golden retriever. It was the weirdest thing, you just don’t see animals up here, especially not a golden retriever.”

Five-year-old Rusty was scared and severely underweight, Tarantino said. After giving him some food and water, she called the phone number on Rusty’s tags but was unable to contact his owner. Based on the address on the dog’s collar, Tarantino guessed he lived in Glenshire.

“My first concern was that his owner had died, or got lost or something,” Tarantino said.

On March 31 at 5 a.m., the morning Rusty showed up in Tarantino’s backyard, she called the resorts on the summit to see if skiers were missing. She also talked to an animal control officer, who said Rusty matched the description of a dog that had been missing for more than a month.

Tarantino took Rusty to work with her that morning and asked a man in a neighboring office, also a Glenshire resident, if he recognized the name engraved on Rusty’s tag: Nick Baimas.

He did, and Tarantino discovered Rusty’s rescue was even more miraculous than she thought.

Thirty-seven days earlier, on Feb. 22, Baimas fell asleep at the wheel and his car rolled over on the north side of Interstate 80 near Eagle Lakes Road – across the freeway and more than 10 miles from Tarantino’s Soda Springs home.

After the Jeep came to rest, Baimas’ three golden retrievers, also in the car, went their separate ways. Wesley made it out the window and stuck around the vehicle, and Chance was pinned under the car, suffered a dislocated hip and was ultimately put to sleep.

The third dog, Rusty, made a run for it.

Baimas sustained minor injuries and has been hospitalized in the Sacramento area since the accident.

Tarantino contacted Baimas’ daughter-in-law, Deb, in Rocklin to let her know Rusty was still alive.

“I was like, ‘You have what? You have who?’ I couldn’t believe it,” Deb said.

Rusty, 28 pounds underweight, slept all the way to Rocklin.

“He smells horrible, like smelly dog that’s been in the woods for five weeks,” Deb said in an interview the next day.

The evening after Rusty’s discovery, Deb took the golden retriever to reunite with Baimas, whose dogs are like his children, Deb said.

“When I heard he was alive, I cried. I just couldn’t believe it,” Baimas said. “Just the idea of five weeks out there by himself…”

After the accident, Baimas tried searching for Rusty around the Yuba Gap area.

“It was like a needle in a haystack,” he said. “Eventually I broke down. I thought he was eaten.”

A visit to the vet revealed what Rusty had been doing the past 37 days. The doctor said Rusty had survived off tree bark (based on a dental analysis), stream water (he had giardia), and snow.

Fortunately, Rusty was overweight before the accident. The vet said he would not have survived otherwise.

Rusty has been recuperating at Deb’s until Baimas is ready to return to Truckee. Rusty has regained his weight and won’t let humans out of his sight. He follows Deb and her husband around the house, which wasn’t typical of the dog’s behavior before the accident.

“Rusty has a great personality, but he’s a wanderer,” Baimas said. “Maybe this got that out of his system.”

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