If a whole family – maybe even a whole central Minnesota town – could wag its collective tail, they'd be doing that today to celebrate the return of Zoey the golden retriever.
Zoey, who belongs to Daryl and Sylvia Ahlgren of Maple Grove, disappeared more than two weeks ago when the family SUV crashed on an icy road near Milaca.
On Monday morning Zoey was discovered a couple miles from the crash site, lying on some of Daryl's clothes that were set out as bait, the Ahlgrens told GoMN News.
'The worst part of the whole accident'
The Ahlgrens were headed home from their cabin on Nov. 18 when their SUV spun out on the ice on Highway 169 and was hit by a truck.
Daryl was trapped in the wreckage and rescuers had to cut him out. He also suffered a fracture of a vertebra in his neck. What's more, Zoey was gone – apparently thrown from the vehicle and spooked by the crash. "That was the worst part of the whole accident," Daryl told GoMN Monday.
The family spread the word among the locals near the crash site, getting help from Mille Lacs County animal control and the lost dog rescue group called The Retrievers.
I've never met so many good people who care so much
"The whole town of Milaca knew about it and everybody was on the lookout," Sylvia Ahlgren says.
Daryl says nearly every day there was a sighting or two of a golden retriever in the woods, especially near a general store called the Hairy Mosquito.
He made the drive up from Maple Grove regularly to help with the search, only to come back empty handed. But on Sunday there were two sightings – one by some hunters and one by a property owner who'd seen bloody dog tracks leading to a fire pit along a river about two miles from the crash site.
A trap was laid for Zoey. "We kind of made it like a manger-type setting, actually," Daryl says with a chuckle.
There was a nice blanket, some food, and the crowning touch: Daryl brought some of his shirts and socks from home to give the area a scent familiar to Zoey. Sure enough, there he was in the morning lying on Daryl's clothes.
"Little baby Zoey (he's actually 8) is pretty tired tonight," Sylvia said Monday. "He doesn't have a lot of energy. I can't even imagine how he survived."
He's already been to the pet store for a shampoo – "he had a little bit of stink to him," Daryl says – and he has an appointment with the vet on Tuesday. He'll get that paw checked where he wore out a pad, but Daryl says Zoey seems to be in pretty good shape considering what he's been through.
Maple Grove and Milaca are more than 50 miles apart, but it seems like a missing golden retriever can bring them together. "I've never met so many good people who care so much," Daryl said of all the central Minnesotans who helped. "It really was a community effort."