A hiker whose 14-week-old border collie ran off during a harrowing bear attack in Alaska earlier this week has been reunited with his puppy.
With the help of several good Samaritans, Jason Umbriaco and his pooch Buckley were brought back together two days after their ordeal on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska’s News Source reported.
“It was just a shock. I couldn’t believe it,” Umbriaco told the outlet.
“I had kind of given up hope, and I was sort of making preparations inside to just move forward without him, and now it’s like I’m gonna have those times back of just joy, and peace.”
Umbriaco, of Montana, was hospitalized after he was bitten twice by a brown bear while hiking on the Kenai River Trail on Sunday evening.
Alaska Wildlife Troopers said that Umbriaco’s pup had run after the mother bear’s two cubs, causing her to charge at the hiker.
The sow moved so fast, that Umbriaco didn’t have time to pull out his bear spray. He said the animal covered about 50 feet “in an instant.”
“So then I held my arms up in sort of a defensive position and then she bit me on the forearm kind of up close to my elbow,” he recalled.
Panicked, he jumped into the nearby Kenai River — but the bear followed and chomped on his shoulder before finally retreating with her cubs.
Umbriaco was able to get back to his truck to call for help, but by then, Buckley had vanished.
“After the conflict, I was calling and calling for Buckley, and apparently he had just run off, you know. He was just terrified and had taken off,” he told the outlet.
At the hospital in Soldotna, employee Bonnie Nichols heard about Umbriaco’s lost dog from the chaplain and the two visited him in his room.
“I said ‘Listen, Alaskans love dogs, so if you can just text me a picture of your dog and a general location, I’ll put it out on Facebook and it’ll be shared,’” Nichols told News Source.
Meanwhile, Wendie Wilson had picked up what she believed to be a stray dog from a refuge in Anchorage.
The next day, she saw Nichols’ Facebook post about Buckley and called her up to say “I think I have the missing dog.”
“She texted me some pictures and then I showed them to Jason, and he said ,‘Yeah, that’s him,’” Nichols said.
After spending a night in the hospital, Umbriaco was discharged and met Wilson and his pooch at a post office in Cooper Landing.
Umbriaco said he was grateful to all the strangers who helped make the reunion possible, adding that Buckley is one of the many pet dogs over the years who has helped him through difficult times after he suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2008.
“And that’s why Buckley is just a big part of my life,” he said.
“I made some bad choices going down that trail, so I’m just going to redouble being cautious, but the summer is moving forward. We’re still camping, we’re still hiking, and we’re just gonna go forward with a new understanding.”