A man has described the fortuitous moment he stumbled upon a blind dog in the mountains more than a week after it wandered away from his neighbor's home.
Dan Estrada knew his community in Santa Cruz, California had been looking for Sage, a 12-year-old Labrador retriever, when he took a hike through a wooded area behind his home on March 4.
Eight days earlier, Sage, who belongs to Estrada's neighbor, Beth Cole, had wandered from the area after each member of the Cole family mistakenly believed someone else had brought her inside.
"Everybody was searching for her," Estrada told InsideEdition.com. "Santa Cruz is a huge dog community. That dog means a lot to everybody."
As he and a friend, Victor Lopez, took a walk through the wooded area, he thought he spotted a pile of trash at the bottom of a steep embankment.
"I look a bit closer and I thought it was a dog," he said.
Estrada, a paramedic and EMT for the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department, immediately thought he was going to have to be the bearer of bad news.
"I know what happens when you find a body," he said. "I’ve had to be the one to tell families that a loved one didn’t make it."
The two friends made their way down to Sage and as they neared her, she apparently heard Estrada's two dogs and lifted her head a little.
That's when Lopez cried: "Dude, she's alive!"
Suddenly, "I'm in the water," Estrada recalled. "I don’t even care that my boots are [wet]. I gave her a big hug and kiss."
Somehow, Sage had avoided being sniffed out by mountain lions, and luckily, there hadn't been any rain since she'd been missing.
Estrada scooped up the exhausted dog and put her across his shoulders to carry her out of the woods.
When they told the Cole family the good news, they couldn't believe it. "Everyone was crying," Estrada said.
The pup was hungry and tired. After a visit to the vet, she's back home. Her family offered Estrada a reward, which he turned down.
Instead, he created seven leather dog leashes — one for each day Sage was lost — with Lopez. They will be raffling off the leashes at a celebration for Sage in Boulder Creek on March 18, and all proceeds will be donated to the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter.