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A ghost dog comes home

Mountain Tales: First-hand stories of life in Tehachapi

One September, we left Tehachapi to go visit Dick's sister Helen Traina in Liggett, California. We brought our two dogs, Bingo and Penny. Bingo was a black lab cross with a grizzled face and she was 17 years old, pretty deaf and with stiff joints. We brought our travel trailer along with us to sleep in. We had been visiting outdoors one night, and Dick got ready to go to bed in the trailer and called Bingo to come with him. She nuzzled his leg and disappeared into the night. When Elaine came into the trailer about 30 minutes later, Dick was surprised that Bingo wasn't with her – she never takes off or wanders, and she's been with us at Helen's place many times, so she knows her way around.

When Bingo didn't show up the next morning, we searched all over for her. Others helped us, and we put up posters, but couldn't find a trace. After a day and a half of searching, we reluctantly came home – we figured she was a goner, as old as she was. Almost a month later, Dick got a call from his sister. "Are you going to come get this dog out of my living room?" she said. "I thought to myself, 'Oh no,' when she said that, but then she added "Bingo's alive!" She had been found by two boys who were playing in Dan Creek, at the bottom of a 200-foot ravine. She was lying beside the creek, unable to walk. Two volunteer firefighters managed to carry her up out of the ravine where she had been trapped all this time -- for almost a month!

She was reduced to skin and bones – she used to weigh 75 pounds in her prime but was down to less than 30 pounds. Dan Creek had supplied her with water but no food. We drove straight up there and got her back. She couldn't bark or wag her tail, but within two months she put 10 pounds back on and started acting like herself. We're so amazed that she survived and didn't have to die hungry and alone in that remote canyon. A 17-year-old dog, and she survived that ordeal. It was amazing.

– Dick and Elaine Hornbeck