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SANDY — A Salt Lake County couple witnessed an incredible story of wilderness survival that began in the highest, most rugged mountains in Utah.
They rescued a litter of four puppies and their mother from a makeshift den in the High Uintas Wilderness Area, more than 90 miles east of Salt Lake City. It was a life-saving operation that had temporarily taken over their lives.
“It’s been crazy,” said Jamie Miller, who rescued the puppies with her husband, Willis. “I’ve spent every minute making sure that these guys are not getting into trouble, and that they’re safe, and that they’re loved.”
The Sandy couple said the puppies have created a bit of chaos as they explore their new surroundings in the Miller’s home. The puppies' mother has kept a watchful eye. After all, from what the humans can tell, the dogs have endured quite an ordeal.
Willis Miller went up to the Uinta Mountains to hunt elk two weekends ago in an area around 11,000 feet in elevation. While walking, his wife said he spotted something by large pile of logs.
“He saw black and white, and thought that he saw a skunk,” said Jamie Miller.
As he moved closer, Willis Miller realized it was black and white puppies, more than likely Border Collies.
“He wasn’t able to get to them, and he was actually really scared of mom,” Jamie Miller said.
Willis Miller went back to his camp trailer and then headed home to Sandy. Back at home, the Millers just couldn’t forget about the puppies.
“We went back the following Saturday,” said Jamie Miller.
They hoped to find the dogs again, despite snow on the ground and single-digit overnight temperatures.
“They were there,” she said.
The puppies were in the pile of logs, and the mother was standing guard.
“She was chasing off two deer away from the den and barking at them. She’s a good mama,” said Jamie Miller.
The couple spent the next six hours in a heavy-duty rescue operation, pulling the logs apart to rescue the mother and puppies.
“We used the side-by-side winch to strategically pull each (log) off,” Jamie Miller said, carefully removing each log from the den to retrieve the puppies.
When they were done, Jamie Miller said she was more exhausted than she had ever been. It was an emotional experience.
“We both bawled,” she said. “We both cried. We knew that these dogs weren’t going to die out there.”
Jamie Miller said it didn’t seem as though the puppies have had a lot of human interaction, if any at all. The mother was very sweet, but still skittish and very protective of the puppies. The puppies were about as playful as you would expect from seven-week-old dogs.
“They get mad at each other and they bite, and they growl,” she said. “Yeah, they’re fun.”
Jamie Miller was amazed by the survival instincts of the mother and her puppies. She took them to a vet for all of their shots and a check-up on Monday. The veterinarian believed the puppies were about seven weeks old, and mother was likely a year old.
The mother has an infection that she should recover from, and all of them were adjusting to a normal canine diet. They’re still eating bugs and leaves as though that was part of their wilderness diet.
Jamie Miller suspected the border collie may have wandered off from a herd of sheep to have her babies and got permanently separated.
Sadly for readers who were hoping to adopt one of the pups, Jamie Miller said she already has a good home for each of them, and mama will likely stay with the Millers.
“We’re pretty in love with her,” she said.