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9 days and $6,000 later, lost dog is found near Moab

Meadow went missing from the Onion Creek area April 25.

(Jayme Carraway) Meadow is photographed on the river before her ordeal began.

After a 9-day community-wide search along the Colorado River that involved over a dozen people and cost about $6,000, a 50-pound, 18-month-old Labrador husky named Meadow was reunited with her owners.

“It was definitely a very lonely week, just feeling really sad about her potentially being gone forever and feeling really guilty, obviously frustrated,” said Jasper La Fein, one of Meadow’s owners. “… I think it pretty much ended the best possible way it could have.”

The search included people hiking the banks and surrounding areas countless times, flying personal drones, glassing with binoculars, setting up cameras and rafting along the river.

La Fein and his girlfriend, Jayme Carraway, first lost sight of Meadow in the early evening of Thursday, April 25, while they were camping along the Colorado River, across from the Lower Onion Creek campground.

Initially, the couple and the people they were with, who were visiting from Tahoe, California, called and whistled for Meadow and looked in the general vicinity, assuming she would come back quickly — but she didn’t.

With the sun starting to go down, they headed downriver to the next campground where a group of people said they had just seen Meadow, who continued to run farther away.

“We expanded our search area even more … and kept searching for her until around midnight,” Jasper said. “We wound up leaving some scent articles of clothing and food downriver from us, hoping that that would help reel her back in.”

That night, Carraway made a Facebook post on the “Lost and Found Pets of Moab, Utah” group. Throughout the 9-day search, the post received a lot of attention and caused many local residents to reach out to help in any way they could.

“The community of Moab showed for us up big time …  tons of people just came out and volunteered their time — I can’t even begin to say how much it meant to us,” La Fein said.

The next morning, Friday, April 26, the group continued the search. That day, they got word that Meadow was seen the night before three miles downriver from their camp.

(Bill Dohse) Jasper La Hein, Yodi La Hein and Madison McKenna with Labrador husky Meadow.

For the rest of the day, several people, including some volunteers, went down the river in their raft and jumped out intermittently to call out Meadow’s name and search, but she still wasn’t found.

“We figured she’s lost, scared, confused, like probably trying to get back to where she came from,” La Fein said.

The next morning, on Saturday, April 27, La Fein and his brother, Yodi, started to hike the entire area that Meadow was missing and eventually found her paw prints near Red Cliffs Lodge. They followed the prints, which they could tell were fresh because it rained recently, and after 10 minutes, they saw Meadow in a field.

“She’s walking towards us and our initial thought was to call for her and when we called for her, she turned around and just ran. We chased her, we lost sight of her, saw her again then lost sight of her again,” La Fein said.

La Fein, Yodi, Carraway and a group of people that an employee for Grand County Search and Rescue put together combed through the whole area where the dog was seen for around five hours with no luck.

Going into the next week, they set up game cameras and food stations for Meadow, per the advice of experts who contacted them. They also hired someone with a thermal drone to scan the area from above.

“We found out the whole approach that we were taking was kind of all wrong as far as getting tons of people out there searching for her,” La Fein said.

Experts explained to La Fein and Carraway that once dogs are lost for around 24 to 48 hours, they “kind of lose sight of who their owners are and they get easily scared by people.”

They were also advised, at this point, to reduce the number of people searching for the dog, not to call for her and if they saw her, just be calm, not approach her and offer food.

Carraway set up a GoFundMe campaign to pay for all the expenses that were accruing including hiring experts, buying game cameras, renting boats and the extra money it cost to stay away from home much longer than they planned. They met their goal of $4,000.

It wasn’t until Saturday, May 4, that Carraway received a call from someone who saw Meadow between Take Out Beach and Sandy Beach, but as she approached the shore, the dog ran into the bushes.

The spot was about nine or 10 miles from the campsite Meadow initially ran away from. La Fein and the rest of the group then headed to the area to search on foot and in a kayak.

Eventually, Yodi saw Meadow and lured her with some tripe. She ate some and licked his hand, but then was startled and ran back into the bushes.

From then on, the group had sight of Meadow though, and La Fein and Yodi were able to surround her, which caused the dog to go back to the riverbank and into the water. Yodi was able to save her from drowning by approaching her with the kayak and pulling her out of the water.

“Thank God it’s a good story to tell at this point,” La Fein said. “It was definitely a pretty traumatic experience, I think, for everybody.”

When Carraway was updated via the phone because she had to head home early to Tahoe to start a new job, she burst into tears.

“It just felt so good that so many people were invested or involved or just curious of what was going on and just being able to tell people we found her and hearing how happy they were is just like the best feeling ever,” Carraway said.

She added that she’s so grateful for all the people who donated time, money, resources and who simply cared.

Although Meadow has lost some weight and seems exhausted, La Fein and Carraway took her to the vet and said she’s doing really well now.

“She’s back home playing with our other dog, playing with other dogs, as happy as can be … she’s really just happy to be home,” La Fein said.

This story was first published by The Times-Independent.