(Courtesy of Larry Bankston/AP)
PENDLETON, Ore. — Curly Bear is back.
The Airedale wandered away from his owner and then struggled four days through deep snow in the backcountry of northeastern Oregon. On Saturday, snowmobilers happened by and found the dog in bad shape, exhausted, bedraggled, thirsty and famished.
"His feet were like ice," said Brian Stewart of Pendleton. "We got him warmed up."
Curly Bear didn't have a collar or tags. But he's been returned to his owner, contractor Larry Bankston of Hermiston, who had called the Forest Service, checked the classifieds and asked his church to pray for the dog's return, the East Oregonian reported.
Bankston said he had loaded the Airedale into his truck to go get his son, whose vehicle was stuck in deep snow on a rural road.
Bankston drove as far up the road as he could and then hiked to his son's truck. A little while later, he noticed Curly Bear had disappeared.
"He just wandered off," Bankston said. "We looked for him until dark."
With a heavy heart, he and his son left. Bankston was back the next day searching and then again when the stuck vehicle was pulled out. No Curly Bear.
Then Bankston's daughter-in-law spotted Curly Bear's photo in an East Oregonian story about the rescue Saturday.
Bankston made a call and identified the dog's markings.
"I'm just glad he's out of the snow," Bankston said.