Rylee, a young Belgian Malinois, was just a carefree, 10-month-old pup when she boarded a boat on Lake Michigan on an outing with her family. It was a beautiful day in late August, and Rylee was enjoying time with her owner’s parents, Edward and Kristin Casas. But when a mechanical problem drew Edward’s attention down to the boat’s engine room and Kristin topside to the steering wheel, Rylee was left unsupervised and mysteriously vanished.
“We assumed she went overboard (and) did a mayday call for a dog overboard,” Edward said.
The couple was eventually put in touch with Lynn Fiedor, who runs an area volunteer group, the Lost Dog Search Team. Lynn put out an alert to local law enforcement, including park rangers and the Coast Guard, and posted a photo and information about Rylee on the group’s Facebook page. Lynn implored the group’s followers to report any sightings and share the post as far and wide as possible.
“From there, it was just a matter of getting the word out as much as I could so that everyone in the area would be looking for this dog when she got to shore,” said Lynn.
“We ended up having over 20,000 people look at our post online, and when I saw that I was like, ‘We’re gonna find the dog,’” she said, her words choking with emotion.
And her hopes were buoyed with the knowledge that, as a breed, Belgian Malinois are smart, strong and loyal, all attributes that improved Rylee’s chances of surviving.
Finally, the following morning, Fiedor received a call about a possible sighting.
“A lady said she had seen the dog going into the Platte River Campground,” Fiedor said.
But the most incredible part of this whole story is just how far Rylee had traveled to reunite with her family. “It was amazing. She literally swam over six miles and walked over 12 miles more through the woods.”
Edward and Kristin arrived at the campground and used Rylee’s favorite squeaky toy to lure her out of the woods.
“Let me tell you, I’m not the kind of guy that cries, but oh did this make me cry,” Edward said. “I am so proud of this dog and so proud of and grateful for Lynn.”
“We have a happy ending, and it’s the reason we do what we do,” she said.
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