Woman That Stumbles Upon Injured Dog Miles From Civilization Is Forced To Make A Tough Decision

For Tia Vargas, hiking was more about recreation than survival. Her biggest challenges were usually limited to overcoming sore muscles, battling a dry mouth, or treating the odd scrape or bruise. But on a hike in July of 2018, she faced a new and completely unexpected challenge.

When this veteran hiker came across an animal in dire need of rescue, she decided she would do anything to bring the creature back to safety — even if it meant putting her own safety on the line. But Tia knew she had to take her journey one step at a time because danger lurked at every turn…

Tia Vargas is not the type of person who likes to stay cooped up indoors. The Idaho resident, pictured below on the left, is an avid runner and hiker. Every chance she gets, Tia likes to push herself up some mountain path or scenic trail.

Facebook / Tia Vargas

In July of 2018, Tia headed out with her 76-year-old father, Ted, to undertake her latest expedition. While there were two passengers in the car driving out to the park, however, there would not be two on the return trip.

Facebook / Tia Vargas

The father and daughter set out to scale Table Rock, which rose 11,106 feet above sea level. Ted’s pace was understandably slower than his daughter’s, so he told her to go ahead while he made the climb at his own pace. Tia continued alone.

Wikimedia Commons / Kencf0618

As Tia reached the summit, two other hikers passing by asked Tia if she lost her dog and pointed to a nearby English Springer Spaniel. They left the scene as Tia approached the pup. He looked pretty beat up, and wore a collar with the name “Boomer.”

Facebook / Tia Vargas

Later that afternoon, Ted spotted his daughter coming back down from the top of Table Rock. But as she came into focus, he noticed something was off about Tia’s silhouette. Did she gain weight? Had she gotten a new haircut? No, Ted realized — Tia was carrying a 55-pound dog on her shoulders.

Facebook / Tia Vargas

Laughing in disbelief, Ted asked Tia if she was going to carry the dog down the entire mountain. Tia filled her dad in on Boomer’s dire condition and suggested they take the easier trail back to their car. From there, they could quickly get the dog some medical attention and contact his owners. Things did not go as planned.

Facebook / Tia Vargas

Although this route had mild elevation changes compared to the park’s other trails, it was in poor condition. Tia and Ted encountered icy downhill patches, where they had to slide down on their butts to avoid slipping and tumbling down the mountainside.

In other places, fallen branches and debris blocked the path. Ted lacked the strength to both complete the trek and carry Boomer, so Tia had to haul the dog over all these obstacles all by herself. Halfway through, she wasn’t sure if she could make it.

David Calhoun

Nevertheless, Tia summoned the strength to go on. She explained, “I said a prayer and literally felt that somebody walked up behind me and lifted the dog off my shoulders. I felt that my ancestors or God sent me angels to help me carry that dog because it’s like the weight was gone off my neck.”

Facebook / Tia Vargas

At long last, Tia and her companions made it back to their car and found a note posted on a trail sign about a lost dog. Before they could reach out to Boomer’s potential owners, however, Tia and Boomer had to focus on recovering from such a harrowing trip.

Facebook / Tia Vargas

Tia had just completed the workout of her life. She said that her legs were “shaky and felt like Jello,” and rough terrain inflicted scratches and bruises all over her body. Of course, she was in fine shape compared to Boomer.

Judging from the dog’s limp and sluggishness, Boomer required immediate medical care. Veterinarians determined that the pooch was dealing with multiple torn ligaments and severe dehydration.

Facebook / Tia Vargas

Once doctors gave Boomer the necessary dose of medication and wrapped his injured legs up in casts, Tia took him home to oversee his recovery. Of course, she also felt obligated to find his original family. She dialed the phone number on the note from Table Rock.

Facebook / Tia Vargas

Fortunately, Tia got a hold of the Pattersons, Boomer’s owners, and right away they explained how the dog got separated. Boomer stepped in a crevice, lost his balance, and fell off the side of a cliff. He dropped 100 feet down until he hit the ground. Then Boomer tumbled down for another 200 feet!


The Pattersons desperately searched for their dog, but they couldn’t find a trace of him. All signs indicated that he was gone. For any creature — dog or human — to survive that fall, they figured it would take a true miracle.

Facebook / Tia Vargas

Tia invited the Pattersons to come to visit Boomer as the dog recovered. They were all thrilled to see the pooch relatively safe and sound, but they didn’t come just to check on his progress. The Patterson family also dropped some bombshell news on Tia.

Facebook / Boomer the miracle dog

They wanted Tia to keep Boomer. The Pattersons got Boomer as a hunting dog, but after the dog suffered torn ligaments and other long-term injuries, he wouldn’t be an effective retriever. They knew Boomer was better off as a normal family dog with Tia and her kids.

At first, Tia was hesitant about taking Boomer away from the only family he knew. But once she saw how much her kids bonded with Boomer, Tia realized that her home was the best possible place for the dog to stay.

Facebook / Tia Vargas

Once Tia shared images of the harrowing rescue online, Boomer became a media sensation. Tia and her new canine companion made the rounds on the talk show circuit to share the tale of their incredible descent and keep fans updated on Boomer’s recovery.

Facebook / Boomer the miracle dog

By the end of 2018, Boomer had his own Facebook page with thousands of fans, but his real treasure was his new family. For a dog that was dying at the top of the mountain, he couldn’t have asked for a better home than this. 

Facebook / Tia Vargas
Domesticated dogs typically can’t last long without the comforts of human companionship. Yet, like Boomer, they do still possess innate animal instincts that can come in handy in when they’re in a pinch. Just take the story of Bandit…

In October of 2016, Bandit, a then-two-year-old black Labrador retriever, was brought by his owner to the local animal hospital in their hometown of Gardiner, New York. While there, however, the crafty pooch managed to escape from the facility.

Bandit’s family searched far and wide for their beloved pup; all to no avail. The woods where he’d escaped were impossibly deep, and the chances of locating him there dwindled by the day.

Bandit’s family couldn’t stand the thought of him being lost in the woods all alone. Without any previously learned survival skills, managing to live from day to day would be far from easy for the young dog…

As the months dragged on, a few pedestrians mentioned seeing a lone black dog wandering in the woods, but no one was ever able to track him down to find out if he was okay. That all changed, however, in March of 2018…

A concerned motorist spotted a dog that looked an awful lot like Bandit and managed to get close enough to see that he was still wearing his tags. Clearly, the stray needed help, whoever it was, so the person called Nicole Asher of Buddha Dog Rescue and Recovery.

After receiving the call, Nicole knew she had to act fast, especially since she figured the dog was going to retreat back into the woods. “We went and set up a trap and surveillance camera in the woods immediately,” she explained of her plan.

“When I heard he was wearing a collar, I couldn’t wait to find out who he really was and where he came from. I was hopeful we could reunite him with his family,” Nicole added. Would she be able to find Bandit?

With the help of her DIY surveillance system, Nicole managed to track the pup for the next few days. She even brought a variety of toys, bones, and food for him to eat. Still, he didn’t fall for her trap…

Growing frustrated with the lack of success in capturing the dog, Nicole decided to place a fenced enclosure in the woods, put treats in it, and wait for him to waltz inside. Would her crazy plan actually work?

At first, the dog seemed a bit put off by the appearance of the new trap. “He was very skittish, so everything new we’d introduce to his area would spook him,” Nicole remembered. Thankfully, that was about to change.

After about five days, the stray finally seemed to be comfortable with the enclosure. Slowly but surely, he began inching his way through the doorway, though never fully entering…

“Watching his antics on video were a constant source of amusement,” Nicole recalled. “He would chase the critters away from his enclosure, play with toys that we left for him and do his little playful dance in front of the enclosure.”

Whenever any other wild animals showed an interest in his food, the pup was quick to scare them off. “He’d stand there barking with his chest puffed out and tail high. He was always so proud that he chased them off. You could tell he was such a character,” Nicole said.

As March was drawing to a close, Nicole began to fear that the dog would never enter the enclosure completely. Then, just when hope was nearly lost, he decided to walk right inside. Her plan had worked!

At that, Nicole rushed into the woods as quickly as possible. She was incredibly anxious to meet him in person for the first time. When she arrived, she took one look at his collar and called his owner to let them know she’d found him. Lo and behold, it was Bandit!

Unfortunately, Bandit’s family claimed they were no longer able to care for him. “Their lifestyle had changed and they just couldn’t take him,” Nicole mentioned. “They surrendered him to us right away. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time he’d ran away for a long period of time, either.”

Bandit was taken in by a partner of Nicole’s rescue called Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge in Oakland, New Jersey. Aside from a tick-borne illness, the veterinarian there was shocked to find that he didn’t appear to be underweight or malnourished at all.

In fact, he was a totally healthy weight, something they attributed to him choosing to live in a section of the woods where hunters often left scraps of meat. Still, everything wasn’t perfect, as Bandit remained very skittish.

Despite his being uncomfortable around humans, the veterinarians still had high hopes that Bandit would start to warm up to them, especially since Nicole mentioned how playful he’d been in the woods.

“You can tell that he is a silly, lovable boy on the inside,” Nicole explained. “His story is amazing and I think he’s given a ton of people hope who have lost dogs out there. They’re very resilient and smarter than we give them credit for.”

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