Thane residents Chris and Benthe Mertl were hosting a house-warming party Saturday when they got a call from the animal shelter.
"We were having too much fun," Chris Mertl said. "They called around 9, and we didn't get the message until close to midnight."
But the news was good. Tsuga, the Mertls' 2-year-old Canadian husky, had been found after being missing for five days.
The Mertls let Tsuga and Taiga, their other dog, out on Tuesday afternoon to run around on the hill behind their house. An hour later, Taiga returned alone.
Thane residents, alerted about the missing dog from an e-mail sent to members of the Thane Neighborhood Association, spent hours searching the Dupont Trail, the Sheep Creek Trail and places in-between.
"We were giving up hope," said Chris Mertl. "... I spent two days until 2 a.m. looking for her, and I just couldn't find her."
By Saturday night, when temperatures fell nearly to zero, the Mertls figured that if they ever found Tsuga, they would find she was a "dogsicle," Chris Mertl said.
But a hiker late Saturday found the 50-pound dog trapped high on Sheep Mountain. Or so the Mertls think. The hiker dropped the dog off at the Gastineau Humane Society shelter and left a voice mail message for the Mertls.
"It happens quite a bit that we find dogs in our exterior kennels that people have found," said Chava Lee, executive director of the Gastineau Humane Society.
The outdoor kennels of the shelter have food, water and blankets for dogs and cats. If the dropped-off animals are licensed, the shelter can easily return the pets to the owners, Lee said.
After five days in the rain and then freezing cold, Tsuga suffered only from slight dehydration, hunger and some swelling in one front and one back paw. The swelling led her owners and her veterinarian to believe Tsuga was trapped between rocks on the mountain, Mertl said.
"It's just fantastic that (the hiker) found her when he did, and equally so that he carried a 50-pound dog down the side of a mountain, a dog he didn't know," Chris Mertl said. "... I'd love to meet him, say thanks and take him out to dinner."
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.