Fort Irwin Animal Control helps ‘Runaway Rae’ return home

Fort Irwin Animal Control Facility

After wandering the desert for 12 days, a lost dog was reunited with her owner.

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — Jan. 16, 2018 started out as a typical day for the Fort Irwin Animal Control Facility (ACF). Mid-morning, the ACF was contacted by a resident regarding a stray dog. Staff responded to the call and brought the animal back to the ACF for evaluation, the same routine as usual. A scan found the dog had a microchip, but a call to Fort Irwin Veterinary Services revealed that microchip number was not registered to any pet they had on record at the installation. Again, not uncommon. So ACF staff followed up with a call to the chip company and were given the owner’s contact information.

Upon calling the owner, and before the ACF staff member could finish identifying herself, he excitedly asked, “Do you have my dog?” The owner, Ed (who wishes not to include his last name), then told us quite an amazing story.

Twelve days earlier, on Jan. 4, Ed was traveling from St. George, Utah, to southern California with his companion, Rae, a Shar-Pei mix. He decided, for a change of pace, to exit I-15 at Basin Road, a remote road located between Baker and Barstow. Travelers who exit here go south to recreation areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). But Ed, not knowing the area, instead went north. What he also did not know was that a short distance past the off-ramp, Basin Road had been closed for years because the bridge ahead was washed out. Worse yet, the “road closed” and warning signs that had once been posted were no longer in place.

When Ed got to where the bridge should have been, the car and its passengers were suddenly airborne.

“We went flying about 30 feet in the air and landed in a dry river bed,” Ed explained.

At that point, a frightened Rae bolted from the passenger window heading north into a desolate desert. Ed spent the next eight hours getting his car unstuck and looking for Rae. After a conversation with the highway patrol, Ed was concerned the coyotes might find Rae before he could. A few days later, while on his way back to Utah, he stopped at Basin Road and once again searched for Rae, but went home empty-handed.

We don’t know the exact route she took to end up in Fort Irwin housing, but Rae traveled at least 25 miles across a desert landscape over her 12-day journey. Other than some high tension power lines that take electricity from Hoover Dam to Los Angeles, there is literally nothing between where she started and ended. A heavy rainfall the week before, which probably filled small basins in the landscape, was likely Rae’s saving grace; prior to that, there had not been significant rainfall in months.

As for Ed, upon hearing Rae was ok, he drove that very night from St. George so he could pick her up first thing the morning of Jan.17. They reunited at the Fort Irwin Visitor Center, both overjoyed to meet once again. Rae had lost some weight, he noticed, but that was to be expected after wandering through the desert for almost two weeks. They are currently back in St. George, and Ed reports both are doing well.

Ultimately, this happy ending was possible because Rae was microchipped with Ed’s current contact information. If you need to update your pet’s microchip information, contact the chip manufacturer or Veterinary Services for assistance. Also, if you don’t already do so, consider keeping a collar on your pet when traveling. The collar should have an ID tag that includes the pet’s name and your contact information.