A man and his dog were reunited after four months of being lost this past month, when Ricardo Rodriguez found his pet Russ asleep on a snowy hillside.

The California native had just about given up hope after Russ ran away during a camping trip right before the dangerous Caldor Fire destroyed his home in September. He called local shelters and searched the area for days, but he was almost certain that his dog would not possibly find his way back home now that it had been destroyed.

Ricardo Rodriguez was eventually forced to evacuate his house near Lake Tahoe, Ca., as the flames grew closer, destroying roughly 1,000 homes and over 2,000 acres of land.

Always hopeful, however, Ricardo told CNN that he never feared the worst for Russ and still thought that he would return one day.

“After months of not hearing back from anyone,” he said, “I assumed he was in good hands with a different owner.”

Four months passed since Russ and Ricardo Rodriguez last saw each other, when a skier up near Lake Tahoe reported finding a pitbull-mix bundled up in the snow under a tree.

The rescue mission was bounced around multiple services who were busy on other cases such as El Dorado County Animal Services Officer Kyle Shumaker and Tahoe PAWS & TLC 4 Furry Friends.

Ricardo Rodriguez' dog, Russ, curled up in the snow where he was found near Lake Tahoe
Ricardo Rodriguez’ dog, Russ, curled up in the snow where he was found near Lake Tahoe. Photo Credit: Tahoe PAWS & TLC 4 Furry Friends

Wendy Jones, the latter non-profit group’s founder and director, ended up sending volunteers Leona Allen and Elsa Gaule, who told reporters that they remembered thinking that, “This was a one-shot deal, we either got him or he didn’t survive the night.”

“I took my hand and put it under his chin, and he rested his head on my hand right away,” Gaule recalled. “That’s when we knew he was trusting and ready to be saved.”

The incredible find turned out to be Russ, who had somehow survived over four months of winter in Lake Tahoe following the Caldor Fire. According to the veterinary doctor he was rushed to see after being found, he was completely healthy.

“Dogs go into survival mode,” Wendy Jones told CNN, “They’re super strong and super smart … it’s like a light switch goes off in their brain and survival mode kicks in.”

A scene from the horrific Caldor fire that separated Ricardo Rodriguez and his dog, Russ, back in Aug. 2021
A scene from the horrific Caldor fire that separated Ricardo Rodriguez and his dog, Russ, back in Aug. 2021. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

According to Jones, Russ had a microchip in him that they could use to search for the owner, and they informed an “ecstatic” Rodriguez that his dog had been miraculously found.

According to the American Kennel Club, these kind of microchips can be placed under the loose skin of your dog’s shoulder blades in a procedure no more invasive that a vaccination. The process is becoming more common to prevent owners from losing their pets, and the radio-frequency chip can be scanned by veterinarians to read owner information registered with the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).

Jones stressed to News Nation Now just how important it is to get your dog microchipped for situations like this. Rodriguez agreed. He was so relieved the technology was able to bring them back together.

The two were reunited on Dec. 26, 2021, the day after Christmas.

I was, like, ‘Man, this is this is crazy,'” Rodriguez recalled. “He did look a little skinny, a bit fatigued I guess you would say, but overall, he looks fine.”

“I think he knew that we were there to help him and he was scared at first, but I think that he knew that our team and rescuers were there to help him,” Jones added. “He had been waiting for his owner.”

“We really appreciate all the work that everyone’s put into rescue my boy Russ, and I can’t thank you guys enough,” Ricardo Rodriguez said. “I really appreciate it.”