A mountain could not come between a German shepherd named Ludwig and a Juneau man who lost the dog on Mount Roberts last weekend, giving him up for dead.
It took five days, but Ludwig found his way off the mountain Thursday night and into the arms of owner Joshua Shrader.
"I'm completely surprised and amazed," said Shrader, 21. "I guess God knows the happy endings we need to have."
Ludwig's journey began last Friday when he and Shrader left for an overnight camping trip. Shrader planned to hike up the Mount Roberts Trail, cross a ridge to the Sheep Creek Trail and return home Saturday. But the duo lost their way on the ridge Saturday morning as the weather closed in, and Shrader decided to head down the mountain hoping Sheep Creek Basin lay below.
Ludwig, 7, was following his owner at a slow pace, and occasionally Shrader would stop to let the dog catch up. But one time he turned to wait for Ludwig and Ludwig never showed up. Minutes later, Shrader fell 300 feet down a steep ravine, slashing his face and breaking his wrist. He climbed out of the ravine to wait for rescuers a wait that would span two days with no sign of Ludwig. On Monday, rescuers plucked Shrader off the mountain, leaving the dog to his fate.
"I was very upset," said Shrader, who bought Ludwig as a puppy. "I guess just with my fall, I figured he would have followed me and taken the same fall or worse."
But Ludwig was master of his own fate. On Thursday Theresa Walden, manager of a nature center on Mount Roberts, was closing shop for the night. As Walden was locking one of the doors, she saw a forlorn-looking German shepherd standing by the Mount Roberts Tram building.
"I just knew it was that dog," said Walden, who had read news accounts of the duo's ordeal. "It was like Lassie coming home. He was just totally drenched, kind of hobbling, just dirtier than heck."
Walden led the dog into the nature center and left a message with the Juneau police to notify Shrader, a police department employee. She fed the dog a granola bar while she closed the shop, but he was restless, she said.
"He wanted to get out of the door," Walden said. "As if to say ... 'I'm not quite where I need to be.'"
Walden took the dog home, but when Shrader called her that night he was doubtful she had Ludwig. Shrader asked her to check for a registration number tattooed in Ludwig's ear.
"She said he did have a tattoo, so I got a little excited," Shrader said.
He immediately drove to Walden's house and as she opened the door, he saw his dog.
"He came over and just was wagging his tail," Shrader said.
Ludwig "started kind of crying," Walden said. "He was the happiest he'd been all night."
When Shrader loaded the dog into his truck and drove down Walden's long driveway toward home, Ludwig started to talk.
"He was just barking the whole way," Walden said. "I could hear him down the driveway barking and then down the road I could still hear him barking. It felt good they got reunited."
Kathy Dye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.