Yes, I do realize it is Wednesday.  I have never been this late posting Gratitude Sunday before, but I have a good reason.  Here’s what happened:

We decided to spend the weekend at a lovely cabin in the Pikes Peak wilderness area to celebrate my mom’s birthday.  Originally, we had planned to go to a hotel in Glenwood Springs, but our dog Rocky’s leg wound hadn’t completely healed, so I didn’t want to board him.  At the last minute, I found a cabin that allowed dogs and off we went.

Friday, 8:00 p.m.

The cabin boasted a magnificent view over the Continental Divide and we had a spectacular sunset.  After a jovial dinner of homemade lasagna and red wine (for the adults), we trundled off to bed.

Saturday, 2:00 a.m.

Jay wakes up suddenly with the barking seal cough indicative of croup with severe stridor.  Phil searches for the closest hospital while I put Jay in a steamy shower, wrap him up in blankets and sit with him outside.  Phil then drives one hour to the hospital.  Jay spends one hour in the emergency room being treated.  They drive one hour back.  I do not sleep a wink the whole time.  The sun is coming up by the time everyone is back in bed.

Saturday, 8:38 a.m.

I finally drag myself out of bed because Rocky is going ape in the cabin – barking, running around, whining.  He needs exercise.  I put on my running clothes and begrudgingly take him out in a, “Time to Make the Donuts” kind of way.  I have his e-collar on, which has a half-mile radius, so I decide to let him loose when we get to the trail.

Saturday, 9:00 a.m.

I see Rocky go off the trail to sniff something.  I pass by, go around a bend and call him.  Nothing.  I zap him on level 2.  Nothing.  I zap him on level 3.  Nothing.  I call and call.  Still nothing.  I repeat this process slowly back up the trail, even zapping on a full five.  Nothing.  Not even a single sound.  No barking, yelping, sound of an animal running.  It’s as if the earth has swallowed him whole.

Saturday, 9:30 a.m.

Luckily, the trail is also a two-track road, so I take Phil’s trusty truck and drive the length of it, certain that once Rocky hears the truck he’ll come running.  He does not.  Now I am very, very frightened.

Saturday, 10:30 a.m.

Repeat the process, this time dropping Phil off to walk the trail with binoculars.  I come back to the cabin and cry so hard I lose my breath.  We repeat the drive 2 more times.  No Rocky.

Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

Phil and Mom take the kids into town to have lunch and go to a museum so that we don’t all sit and stare at each other in misery.  I call every animal shelter and every animal control officer in three counties to report a lost dog.  I continue driving and walking the trail.  I cry.  A lot.  I feel immeasurable guilt that I have failed this sweet boy who has become a member of our family.  I imagine each and every horrible thing that could have happened or will happen to him.  I pray.  I even invoke my father for help, which I have only ever done twice before.  I guess it was one of those moments when you need your parents – both of them…

Saturday, 6:00 p.m.

The Cripple Creek Sheriff’s Department calls to say someone dropped off a dog at the town shelter that might match Rocky’s description.  Phil drives in with Em to find out.  We try very hard not to get our hopes up, but it’s impossible.  It’s the first shred of hope we’ve had all day.  My heart races; my hands shake.  I cannot sit still.

Saturday, 7:18 p.m.

Phil calls.  The dog at the shelter is not Rocky.  My mom and I completely break down.  I feel hopeless.  The same sunset that we cherished the night before now seems like a final, fatal blow.  We grill steaks (it is my mom’s birthday after all) and force them down, but nobody feels like eating, much less celebrating.

Saturday, 10:00 p.m.

We all go to bed, worn out from crying and ready for a few hours of respite, even though we know it will be worse tomorrow when we have to think about leaving without Rocky.

Sunday, 2:00 a.m.

I wake with a start, instantly remember what happened and plunge into misery.  I need to pee.  I walk down the stairs and notice the outdoor motion-sensor light is on.  I see an animal pacing back and forth.  I assume it is one of the two huskies from next door who have been hanging around, but when I get closer, I see the curlicue tail.  I fly to the door, open it, Rocky jumps into my arms.  I am not sure I have ever felt so much relief and gratitude as I did at that moment.  He then jumps on my mom’s bed and gives her the best awakening she’s ever gotten.  The whole family wakes up to celebrate while he drinks two bowls of water and eats a whole bowl of food.

Sunday, all day

We head home and make a few stops to try to salvage some of the weekend, but really all we can think about all day is how fortunate we are and how miraculous it was that Rocky found his way back, and with barely a scratch on his body.  Truly miraculous.


Em loves Rocky up after he comes back



Happier than ever to cuddle my dog!



So Happy Together... @Helen Hunt falls on the way home


Yeah, so the weekend pretty much sucked.  In fact, it was the worst weekend getaway EVER.  BUT — it had a very happy ending and left me with something very monumental to write about for this week’s Gratitude Sunday.

So obviously, I’m grateful that Rocky came back.  I’m grateful to Phil, who even though he was just as sad and torn up as the rest of us, managed to stay rock solid and keep us all together and sane.  Finally, I’m grateful for my mom, who kept telling me it wasn’t my fault even though it absolutely was.

I think that’s more than enough for one week, don’t you?

P.S. Rocky was nothing more than tired with sore paws and a few cuts on his pads.  He has been happily convalescing the past few days, as you can see below.  If you want to read more about Rocky’s escapades, click here or here.


It's hard work recovering from an 18-hour romp in the wilderness!


Categories: Birthdays, Dogs, Family, Gratitude Sunday, Travel · Tags: , , , , , , , ,



  1. Wow! Glad the story had a happy ending.

    I would be devastated if our Tigger disappeared and we couldn’t find him.

    I’ve never heard of an e-leash before. How does it work?
    You zap it and they come to avoid getting zapped harder?
    And if they get too far away from you they get zapped?

    Sorry that the weekend zapped your strength instead of recharging it.

    • Yes, it’s an electric collar that gives a shock at increasing levels. I almost never go above a two with him, but had to this time. So I have the control and the collar is on him.

      Before we got this dog I never would have considered using one of these. But as you can see, he has his escape issues. He, and we, were professionally trained to use the collar properly. It’s for his own safety and our peace of mind, although it certainly didn’t work in this case…

  2. That is one HUGE dog!!! (One big softie, too, me thinks. :P)

    I confess, I giggled – quite a bit – in this post. ONLY because I knew it had a happy ending!!! (Would have horrified and ‘Oh no!’ing with you, otherwise.)

    Gorgeous views in those pics, btw. Is that your bedroom – with you cuddling Rocky? WOW!

    • Kat – you are right. He IS a big softie. Thankfully a smart softie too for managing to find his way back.

      I wish those were the views from my bedroom, but that picture was taken from the cabin we stayed in. It was incredibly beautiful, unless you were looking out into that vastness imagining your pup lost in it. Then it seemed pretty desolate.

      We were able to appreciate the view again on Sunday once we had him back. 🙂

  3. Oh my goodness, I’m so happy your Rocky made his way back. Poor thing. I can only imagine how horrible that was for ALL of you. Thank God it turned out ok!

  4. So glad your Rocky made it back home! What a weekend! And such sweet pictures. Hope this week is less crazy for you.

  5. Julie & Hannah – Thank you for your well-wishes. So far, this week has been far less eventful – thank goodness!

    Oh, and Em and I have decided that I need to write a story about this. The idea is that we imagine what Rocky’s day was like while he was gone, animals he encountered, etc. and ultimately what motivated him to find his way home. Sort of a fiction within nonfiction.

    So, if I ever get that published as a PB, at least something good would have come out of it!

  6. Oh, Julie! I totally felt your pain there. That is so upsetting and scary. I’m grateful everything worked out in the end. I’ve been in the emergency room with a croupy kid too. Whew! I’m glad that weekend is over for you!!

  7. What a weekend! That sounds like it should be in a book that tale. Hope you and the dog have recovered. I bet it’s a rest to be back at home now. Take care of yourselves and I’m glad I’m staying home this weekend.

  8. Very glad your story had a happy ending…and I also loved the pic of the sunset over the mountains, though as you said you weren’t in a mood to enjoy it after Rocky went missing.

    My weekend was quiet in comparison to yours…thank goodness!

    • Fortunately, the sunset was the night BEFORE all the horror commenced. That was probably the last time we were all happy – until Rocky came back of course! 🙂

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