OK, so Sherbert, BACKPACKER's uber-tough mascot dog, finally has some competition: Buck, a golden retriever from Washington, survived six months in the Montana wild, braving starvation, heavy snows, and winter temperatures as low as -27. He was reunited last week with his owners, likely tired and hungry, but otherwise uninjured.
Say it with me now: Awwwwwwwwwwww.
While at a rest stop on a family trip, 7-year-old Buck bolted at the sound of a train whistle, disappearing into the wilderness near the north-central Montana town of Chester. Despite a massive two-day search by his owners and helpful townspeople, Buck never turned up. The heartbroken Halter family headed back home to Bonney Lake, Washington, fearing they'd never see their beloved pooch again.
"Every time we'd hear about the weather we would just cringe," Halter said. "I would just cry even harder, thinking 'Where is my Buck?' And of course I couldn't let my son (17-year-old Jason) know. I never let him see me cry because he kept the faith and kept the hope.
"He would tell me all the time that Buck's coming home," she said of her son, who had had the dog since it was a puppy. "He actually thought he was going to walk home like in (the movie) 'Homeward Bound.'"
Fast forward to January 25: Chester local Jason Wanken spotted a stray dog on his family farm that matched Buck's description. Even though Wanken figured it had been too long for Buck to survive, he lured him into a kennel with food a few days later, and eventually contacted the Halter family. After confirming it was Buck with a few emailed photos, they drove 750 miles overnight to pick him up.
"When we got to the Wankens, he ran right up to us and it was absolutely without a doubt him," Halter said. "It was a miracle. He looked at us and we looked at him and we were all crying. It was beyond amazing."
"From the time he left us until the time Jason Wanken found him, there is no clue where he's been or what he's done," Halter said. "Only he knows. I almost feel like taking him to a pet psychic to see if they could tell me. Only he knows his secret and he's keeping it to himself."
Of course he's keeping it to himself. Any dog smart enough to survive that long in the wild also knows the movie rights are worth sackfuls of cash; you couldn't ask for a better Hollywood ending. If you really want to know what happened to Buck, don't call a pet psychic—call Jerry Bruckheimer.