Family's missing blind dog rescued in remote area of Santa Cruz Mountains

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BOULDER CREEK, Calif. (KTVU and AP) -- A blind dog that was lost in the thick woods and steep terrain of the Santa Cruz mountains was missing for more than a week before she was found.

The 12-year-old Labrador named Sage had been missing for eight days. Her owner Beth Cole says the family mistakenly thought she had been brought into the house. About an hour later, they realized she was outside and gone.  Stories of Sage's disappearance soon spread on social media. Members of the community searched high and low for Sage, and a professional dog tracker was hired with no luck.

There had been multiple mountain lion sightings in the area and the family feared the worst - that Sage was a goner. They were devastated.

That's when neighbor Dan Estrada and his friend went for a hike. Estrada tells KTVU he took his friend to a remote area that he finds incredibly peaceful. When he looked down a hill at a stream he saw what looked to be Sage's lifeless body in the stream. "I know this dog is a sweetheart - when I saw her lifeless body - I thought this was a recovery effort. I didn't want to be the bearer of bad news."

As he got closer, much to his surprise, Sage slowly lifted her head. "I started hugging her, it was overwhelming - so moving," said Estrada.

Estrada, who is a paramedic/firefighter in Livermore, put Sage over his shoulders and carried her up the ravine. Estrada says if dogs could smile, Sage was smiling all the way home. He called his wife - who contacted Sage's owner Beth Cole. Estrada said as the Cole family was reunited with Sage, they were overwhelmed with emotion. They immediately took Sage to a veterinarian where they learned Sage was weak with a fever and malnourished. Luckily she was not dehydrated because she was drinking from the stream.

Estrada adds that a storm came in the evening Sage was found. He believes the river would have risen and Sage would have drowned.

Sage has been getting plenty of TLC since her rescue. A neighbor even cooked a steak for her.

Estrada says she's back to her usual "sweetheart" self.

The Cole family offered Estrada a $1,000 reward which he declined. Instead it will be donated to a local animal shelter.

Estrada and his friend work with leather and have made seven custom dog leashes with words like “survivor,” and “hope” that will be raffled off for charity. There will also be an event on March 18 from 4-6 p.m. at Joe’s Bar on Highway 9 as a celebration for Sage - benefiting the Santa Cruz Animal Shelter.