Regular readers know how much we appreciate a good dog story here at the Outdoor News Hound. Here’s one about an outfitter’s dog that traversed nearly 100 miles of some of North America’s toughest terrain—while forest fires burned around him—to return home safely last week.
Bandit, a 4-year old Australian shepherd/border collie mix, was unintentionally left behind by his owners, Tucker and Amy Mills, after they loaded their 26 head of stock, numerous tourists, assorted tack and gear following an abbreviated pack trip into Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness on Friday. The Millses opted to cut the multi-day wilderness trip short after they received word that a wildfire had blown up behind them, cutting off the regular return route to their Augusta ranch.
In the mayhem of horses, trailers and trucks, Bandit went missing.
“He must have gotten confused with all the vehicles,” Amy Mills later told the Helena Independent newspaper. “Or maybe he went to take a nap in the shade and just missed the ride.”
The Millses contacted the nearest ranger station and told them about Bandit, but they realistically doubted they’d see him again.
Then, on Saturday they received word that the dog was spotted dashing at full speed past the White River Ranger Station, more than 30 miles from where he was last seen.
Despite the encouraging news, some sixty miles of wilderness, burning timber and grizzly bear habitat lay been the station and the Mills’ home.
“I was worried about Bandit coming through the fire,” Ms. Mills admitted.
Miraculously, first thing Sunday morning, when she opened the front door—in charged Bandit. Mills said the pooch was “a little stoved-up,” but otherwise, no worse for the wear--especially considering he’d covered an estimated 96 miles of rugged mountain country in less than 48 hours.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I gave him some aspirin and he was fine.”
We’d say it’s a good guess that old Bandit will never, ever miss loading up for the ride home, ever again.