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HUNTSVILLE, Weber County — Believing she won’t survive the winter, searchers say they won’t give up trying save a Great Pyrenees dog abandoned in Utah’s snowy mountains — even if it means camping out in below-freezing temperatures.
They’ve named her “Grace.”
“We think it’s going to be by the grace of God that we find her. We all need a little grace in our life, and she’s our grace,” explained Kathryn McLeod, one of the searchers.
On Dec. 1, Kat Perry and her boyfriend discovered three puppies and their mother stranded in the Ant Flat area east of Pineview Reservoir. The snowmobilers called for help saving the dogs, prompting county search and rescuers to bring a sled and carry the puppies to safety.
The mother, however, ran away.
Authorities believe she had left her sheepherder owners to give birth, and the sheepherders left the dog behind while avoiding a snowstorm. The owners have not come forward to claim the dogs, Perry said.
She remembered the rescue of the puppies as “bittersweet.”
“It was awesome to find the puppies because I know I saved them. But I was so close to having mom, and I hated to leave her. I cried all the way back down the snowmobile trail,” Perry said Tuesday.
Already weaned, two of the puppies have been adopted, and Perry adopted one herself.
Though the puppies had a happy ending, the story of the abandoned mother prompted several of Perry’s friends and strangers to join the hunt. They had a “significant” sighting of her Tuesday and are optimistic they will eventually capture her, McLeod said.
“It’s important to me because she doesn’t really have another advocate. She needs somebody. She needs to be rescued, and if we stopped our efforts, she really doesn’t have anybody else. We just really want to save her, and it would be really nice to have a Christmas miracle or a New Year miracle,” McLeod said.
Perry believes if she isn’t rescued, Grace won’t survive the winter. When Perry and her boyfriend originally found and fed the dogs, she noticed the mother was extremely thin.
“She’s wearing a collar that apparently was put on her when she was a small puppy, and she’s grown larger and the collar is super, super tight,” Perry recalled, adding that the dog appeared to have trouble swallowing.
Searchers have spent countless hours traversing the ranch area where Grace has been spotted multiple times in the hope of luring her to them. Initially, she was spotted with two male dogs, but has recently been seen alone. Dogs are prone to wander, and the group never seems to be in the right place at the right time, Perry said. Grace runs away when people approach.
The searchers have driven snowmobiles, an ARGO snow machine, cross-country skis, snowshoes, and even a helicopter trying to find her. They visit the area regularly, sometimes camping, to put meat for Grace in a trap and check game cameras.
It’s difficult to tell if the dog has been eating the food left for her or if other wildlife has pilfered it, Perry said.
McLeod and another searcher hope to share “joint custody” of Grace once she’s found, as they’ve become attached to her during the search. But McLeod said they want whatever will be best for her. The two women “totally put their lives on hold to do this,” visiting the ranch area 17 days in a row, according to Perry. Others search on weekends.
The searchers have also spent thousands of dollars on gas, supplies and time. Most of them live in West Haven, more than an hour drive to Grace.
When asked when she believes the search might end, Perry says that hasn’t been discussed.
“I really don’t think they’ll quit,” she said. “We’ll get her eventually, it’s just going to take time.”
Great Pyrenees are classified as working dogs, and are often overbred and neglected, leaving many of them in shelters, according to National Pyr Rescue. They are touted as independent thinkers, calm and gentle. Because they’re considered livestock guardian dogs, they aren’t subject to animal cruelty laws, the rescue group says.
“These dogs, you know, they guard sheep, and we know there’s some really good ranchers that take really good care of their dogs. But there’s also kind of a plight of these dogs being left on mountaintops. She’s not the first one, and we want to raise awareness, and maybe she can be the poster child for the plight of the breed when they’re left. They are domestic dogs, so they’re not meant to survive on their own,” McLeod explained.
McLeod believes it’s a miracle that the puppies were found — fluffy, white dogs on a mountain covered in snow — and hopes for a second miracle.
“Grace and miracles go together,” she said.
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