Golden Retriever Survives 65 Days Alone in the Alaskan Wilderness

Nevena Nacic
by Nevena Nacic
Iryna Trehubenko/Shutterstock

It’s always tragic when a beloved pet dog goes missing, but this was particularly hard for the Mahoskey family, whose senior golden retriever vanished in the Alaskan wilderness. 

The family was unsure that they would ever see Stella again. Luckily for them, Stella is one tough cookie. 

Stella’s adventure began in early July when she was enjoying a quiet evening with her family on the back deck of their Sitka home. According to local news outlet KCAW, an unexpected burst of fireworks startled a 13-year-old Stella and sent her dashing into the wilderness. 

Sarah and Jerrom Mahoskey and their two kids, Kai and Quinn, searched until nightfall but had yet to locate Stella. The next morning, the family grew even more concerned when they realized that their pooch hadn’t returned. 

Their worries increased even further when the neighbor told them about the bear attack that happened the previous night. 

They said, ‘Did you hear there was a bear that attacked a dog last night? We had the windows open in the back of the house, and my wife heard this altercation that sent chills up her spine. And basically, I don’t think your dog could be alive,’” Sarah recalled to KCAW. 

However, Stella’s family still had hope that she was alive, somewhere, in the woods. The Mahoskeys spent the summer checking out trails near where Stella went missing and followed up on any lead or potential Stella sightings reported by their friends and neighbors. 

After two months and many investigated reports, Sarah told a friend, “I feel like there’s a 1% chance that she’s out there, and so I cannot let go.”

Then, in early September, more than two months after Stella disappeared, the family received a phone call from Tim Eddy, a friend of Jerrom, who was working at the quarry that day.

He said ‘Do you have a golden retriever?’ And Jerrome said, ‘Well, we did have a golden retriever.’ And he says, ‘Well, I think this is your golden retriever,’” Sara shared. 

Jerome hopped in his four-wheeler and drove to the quarry, where he spotted Stella.

“She was on the cliffside, and it was basically this ash and rock that was the same exact color as her,” said Sarah. “She totally blended in. The fact that Tim saw her -  I just kept saying to him, ‘How did you see her?’”

Considering the lack of food and water at the quarry, the Mahoskeys don’t believe Stella was there long. The family suspects the quarry looked like a familiar ground to Stella, who grew up around Jerrome’s excavation business. 

After more than two months in the wilderness, Stella weighed only 30 pounds - that’s nearly half of her regular body weight. Sarah believes that Stella likely foraged to survive. 

“She has always picked her own berries when we are out hiking,” Sarah explained. “And she loves dandelion roots.”

In addition to being underfed, the golden retriever also had a large gash on her left side, possibly from the encounter with the bear. 

We think she probably hunkered down for quite a while, and just probably wasn’t able to move a lot and knew that it needed to heal,” said Sarah. “She obviously found a safe space, because the fact that she was bleeding and wasn’t found by that bear or another bear again is quite a miracle.”

Upon her safe return home, Stella was examined by her vet, who placed her on a strict diet for the first 10 days. Now, she’s eating well and has already gained 11 pounds.

Although Stella can’t share everything that happened during the time she was lost in the wilderness, she hasn’t changed much. According to Sarah, the only difference is that Stella is now definitely hungrier than before. 

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Nevena Nacic
Nevena Nacic

Nevena is a freelance writer and a proud mom of Teo, a 17-year-old poodle, and Bob, a rescued grey tabby cat. Since childhood, she had a habit of picking up strays and bringing them home (luckily, her parents didn't know how to say NO). When she's not writing for her fellow pet parents, Nevena can be found watching Teo sleep. To her defense, that's not as creepy as it sounds!

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