Catahoula Mix Survives “Miles” in Blizzard

For Caitlin Brennan of Walnut Creek, Calif., and her canine companion Miles, a 3-year-old Catahoula mix, Lake Tahoe is a second home. The Brennan family has owned a cabin there for decades, and Caitlin lived in a nearby neighborhood for a short time after she graduated from college. The Tahoe family cabin is now their favorite vacation spot. However, their latest weekend getaway almost became Miles’ last after he went missing during a severe storm and spent three days lost in the wilderness.

Caitlin and her boyfriend Matt rescued Miles three years ago from a shelter near San Francisco and purchased a policy with Nationwide during the adoption process. Initially, Miles was nervous and preferred to be left alone, but he and the family quickly became inseparable.

“We definitely had to earn Miles’ trust,” said Caitlin. “Once he was comfortable with us, he became the most loving dog we’ve ever owned. He wants to be by our side wherever we are, whether we’re hiking in Tahoe or just hanging out at home. He’s a huge part of our family.”

During the lake trip, Caitlin, Matt, and a group of friends were staying at her family cabin with Miles and another dog named Murphy. Tahoe was experiencing sporadic bad weather on the first night and wind caused a tree to fall on a neighboring cabin. The next morning the group went to explore the damages and brought the dogs along for the walk.

“We wanted to make sure everyone was okay,” said Caitlin. “Miles knows the area like its his own backyard so I’ve never worried about him running off, but I lost track for one moment and he and Murphy disappeared. At first, we didn’t panic because we knew that Miles knew where the cabin was, but then it started to rain and anxiety set in.”

After searching late into the night, Caitlin and the group were forced to call off their pursuit. On the second day, the friends divided into two groups with half continuing the search through the woods, while the others posted signs and contacted local veterinarians, shelters, and businesses.

“Tahoe is a tight community, and everyone is very supportive,” said Caitlin. “All of our neighbors were joining in on the search for Miles and Murphy, and the local businesses posted the dog’s pictures on their Facebook page. Everyone was determined to find them…even the ski resort was on patrol.”

With day two coming to an end and the search intensifying, a severe snow storm struck Tahoe, and once again, the group had to retreat. With no sign of the pups after two days, Caitlin was beginning to lose hope.

On the third day, Caitlin and Matt expanded their search and hiked an area 15 miles away from the cabin. After an exhaustive effort, they found nothing. The team was nearly out of options, but then Caitlin’s phone rang. A neighbor had spotted the dogs from a distance and followed them to a cabin.

“When we got the call we rushed back as fast as we could,” said Caitlin. “We couldn’t believe our eyes. Miles and Murphy were sitting on the porch of our old house, right down the street from our cabin.”

After offering Miles food and water, Caitlin took him to the Burton Creek Veterinary Clinic in Tahoe to have him evaluated. When Miles arrived, his paws were battered and his stature was thin. The veterinarians ran tests and determined he had colitis from eating something toxic, and was malnourished from lack of food. After a short stay and medications for the road, Miles was sent home and could finally relax.

Since his return, Miles has made a full recovery. His incident hasn’t affected his passion for the outdoors and he still enjoys trips to Lake Tahoe. Caitlin still can’t believe that Miles survived and is grateful for all the support she received throughout the experience.

“I’m just relieved that everything worked out,” said Caitlin. “I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to lose Miles. We’re lucky that we had such great support from the Tahoe community and from Nationwide. I knew that I could take Miles to get the medical attention he needed without having to worry about the cost, which made it much easier to just enjoy his return.”

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