Jade used to be a picky eater. But after spending 44 days alone in Yellowstone National Park and losing a third of her body weight, the Australian Shepherd hunts, kills and eats whatever small game and rodents she can get her paws on. Even though she is back in Denver, sleeping on soft couches and eating commercial dog chow, her owner, David Sowers, says this “ratting” is the most noticeable way Jade changed after Yellowstone.
Sowers’ scars from the head on-collision in Yellowstone, that separated them for all that time, are a little more visible. “Maybe I should have worn shorts,” he joked as he hiked up a pair of well-worn blue jeans to show me the long surgery incision that bisects his right knee. A shattered kneecap was just one of his injuries. “How did you survive Yellowstone for 44 days and not even get a scratch?” Sowers asked Jade.
It was on a vacation to Yellowstone in 2015 when a truck driver fell asleep and wandered over the centerline—and smashed head-on into the SUV that carried Sowers, his girlfriend at the time, Laura Gillice and their two dogs.
Sowers took the biggest beating in the crash. With a shattered kneecap, a fractured wrist, broken ribs and a concussion, he was airlifted to a hospital. An ambulance took away Laura. The dogs were left behind with the emergency responders.
Gillice’s dog, Laila, and Sower’s Jade were in cages in the back rather than unrestrained on the rear seats. “If we had had her loose in the car the day we had that wreck, she probably wouldn’t be here today,” Sowers said. When the emergency responders opened up the rear of the car, they found both dogs safe and sound in their cages.
But while Laila’s wire cage held together, Jade’s hard plastic container shattered the in hands of the personnel trying to retrieve her. In an instant, she disappeared into the woods.
Bring Jade Home: The True Story of a Dog Lost in Yellowstone, written by friend Michelle Caffrey, chronicles those 44 days Jade was lost and the difficulty getting her back.
How they were reunited.
The rescue effort made Jade a something of a local celebrity around the park and the two have traveled back to the park in association with the book. “She didn’t seem to really mind,” Sowers said, even after everything that happened to her there.
When Sowers woke in the hospital and learned Jade was missing, he quickly opted to leave the care of medical professionals and get out to look for his dog. Park rangers and other tourists saw Jade in the park. Some tried to get the dog, but she was suspicious and stayed out in the wilderness. But as time passed more people learned about Jade and Sowers. They would look out for the dog, unable to get her to come in, but word kept getting back to Sowers his dog was out there.
He never gave up hope, until he actually found Jade. In the meadow near the crash that became a center for their searching, Sowers finally ran into his dog, over 40 days after the crash. But she bolted. “We’re never going to catch this dog,”
Sowers said. If she ran from him, he was unsure what more could be done.
The next day, Sowers debated whether or not to stay much longer looking for Jade. In the meantime, Gillice took her dog Laila out for a walk just to check out the meadow again. Gillice saw something rustling in the brush. Laila, spotting the same, began to bark.
The barking finally drew Jade out of the brush. Jade finally ran up to Gillice, around the same time Sowers arrived back. But the two were unprepared for Jade to actually come back. With no spare leash, Sowers led Jade out of the wild with a pair of shoelaces.