RIRIE — A local dog that went missing over Memorial weekend was found by a hunter whose trail camera caught the dog eating his bear bait.
Camping over Memorial Day weekend is a tradition for Qwade and Kenzie Perry, of Sunnydell, their two kids and dogs. Usually, they go camping with a big group but this year nobody else was going. They decided last minute Friday morning they would still go camping so they could get the kids and dogs out for a weekend.
“We hooked the camper on and got the dogs loaded on the flatbed and headed to Maverik in Ririe to grab the kids some juices for the drive,” Kenzie said. “Both dogs were still on the pickup when we pulled out of Ririe.”
They made their way onto the gravel roads headed up to the dry farms when a couple of trucks went “flying past” them. Not long after, Kenzie asked Qwade if he saw both dogs in the back because she could only see one.
“We stopped to check and realized Ruger was missing,” she said. “He doesn’t ever jump from the pickup. Even when we’re parked we have to lift him down. We thought maybe the pickups passing spooked him enough to make him jump.”
The family immediately turned around to look for him but saw no signs of Ruger anywhere.
“That was the beginning of driving all weekend long,” Kenzie recalls. “We decided to find a camp spot to get the camper set up and feed the kids, then we would head back out. That was basically the routine all weekend — go back to camp long enough to eat and then head back out to look for him.”
On Friday evening, Kenzie posted on Facebook about their missing dog. She hoped word would spread and if someone found Ruger, they’d know to contact her.
The Perrys loaded up Sunday afternoon to go home but continued to check for Ruger that day. They had no tips on their dog.
What the Perrys didn’t know is Ruger was alive and surviving off a local hunter’s bear bait. The bait was set Friday and Ruger showed up early Saturday morning then came back 15 more times between Saturday morning and Monday evening, according to a local bear hunter who asked to remain anonymous.
The hunter’s trail camera was set up near his bear bait. It sends pictures to his phone and the camera captured the entire ordeal.
“The first time I saw the picture, I thought, ‘Oh there’s a bear.’ Then I was like, ‘Wait, that bear has a collar. That’s not a bear. That’s a dog,’” he told EastIdahoNews.com.
The first few times Ruger was there, he walked past the 55-gallon barrel that had the bait. By 3 p.m. Saturday, Ruger was getting hungry. The hunter said Ruger was smelling the bait but wasn’t sure how to get into it. By almost 5:30 p.m. that night, he figured it out and had his head in the bait, eating.
The hunter wasn’t sure who owned the dog but figured it belonged to somebody camping for the weekend. But Monday night, the dog showed up again.
“I’m starting to worry because I have dogs and little kids, and I bet somebody is looking for that dog,” the hunter said. “I’m worried for them. I told my wife and kids about it.”
He got on Facebook to see if he could find the owner of the dog and came across Kenzie’s post. He called her Monday around 9 p.m.
“I called her and said, ‘I found your dog. Well, I didn’t really find your dog. I found a picture of your dog,’” he recalls saying. “She gets emotional and says, ‘What?’ I said, ‘Your dog is on my bear bait.’”
Kenzie remembers asking, “So, he’s alive?” And hearing the hunter slightly giggle and respond, “As of 7:55 p.m. tonight, he’s alive and he’s been eating good.”
Qwade and Kenzie’s kids were asleep and Qwade had just arrived in Salmon where he was working for the week. The hunter said he and his wife would jump in the truck and start looking for Ruger.
After not being able to find him, Qwade drove home from Salmon, grabbed their other dog, Bow, and the two of them went looking for Ruger.
“My husband made it home around 12:30 a.m., grabbed his hunting pack with all of his lights and safety gear and headed to the woods with Bow,” Kenzie said. “I was a nervous wreck sending them out to a bear bait in the middle of the night but knowing our dog was out there alive, I knew I wouldn’t be able to convince my husband to wait for daylight.”
Her husband tracked Ruger down in about 30 minutes and they made it safely back home by 2:30 a.m.
“We had this very type of thing happen to us where one of our dogs runs away and us and the kids will go and we’ll say a little prayer ‘Please help someone to find our dog,’ and then somebody will find our dog,” the hunter explained. “This felt like the same thing (but) … now it’s our turn. We get to help somebody else out.”
The Perrys are grateful for the hunter and his family who made the effort to find out who Ruger belonged to and went out searching for him.
“We know that often times these stories don’t have happy endings and we are lucky that ours did,” Kenzie stated. “We’re thankful that our kids get to have more time with their dog and that’s something that we will never take for granted again.”
Now what was inside the barrel Ruger was munching on?
The hunter said it was filled with cookie crumbs and potato chips.