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Irish setter guarding trapped dog friend for a week gets them both rescued

Get out your tissues, because you’re about to hear a pet rescue story that’s on the level with Homeward Bound. Two dogs who had been lost for a week on Washington state’s Vashon Island have been found because of one of the dog’s unflagging loyalty to his friend.

A setter mix named Tillie and a basset hound named Phoebe went missing on Sept. 8 on the relatively isolated Vashon Island in Puget Sound. Naturally the dogs’ owners were worried and reached out to Vashon Island Pet Protectors, a local nonprofit animal rescue organization, for help. The organization posted pictures of the dogs on its Facebook page, asking locals to please share and keep a sharp eye out for them.

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After a week of searching, the owners were beginning to lose hope, but that’s only because they didn’t realize just how resourceful their setter Tillie was. According to a local property owner, Tillie had made her way to their property and actually came up to them before heading back into a ravine in the woods. Apparently this mysterious behavior had been happening for a few days. Fortunately that person happened to see VIPP’s Facebook post with the pictures of the two dogs and recognized their reddish setter visitor.

Tillie had been making her way out of the ravine each day to search for help, because her canine friend Phoebe has fallen into an old cistern and could not get out. The setter refused to leave the trapped basset hound and guarded the cistern day and night, except for the times she’d leave to try to find someone to bring back. When Tillie was visiting that local’s property, she was trying to lead them back to Phoebe. This dog is essentially today’s answer to Lassie.

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The volunteers searched the woods and ravine for the dogs, hoping Tillie would make herself known. “With a needle in the haystack hope we made our way into the ravine and after a bit of searching, finally heard that sweet sound we have been waiting for all week. A small one-woof response when we called out,” said one volunteer on VIPP’s Facebook page.

Finally they found Tillie with her head resting on the cement at the top of the cistern. Right away they knew Phoebe was down below, but they feared she might be injured. When they looked inside, they saw her perched on some rubble at the higher end of the cistern, out of the water. She was OK for the most part, if not scared and hungry, but most important, still alive.

The story of this heroic dog who would not leave her basset hound friend’s side has gone viral in just three days, with the original thread on VIPP’s page having been liked over 10,500 times. It is, however, also a cautionary tale to dog owners who live near woods or in rural places. Dogs can easily get stuck in holes and old industrial sites. If your dog has suddenly gone missing, it’s a good idea to check such places first.

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