This Feb. 18, 2012 photo provided by Shannon Sustacha shows Barbara Bagley and her Shetland sheepdog Dooley after the two were reunited, east of Battle Mountain, Nev. Bagley says she never gave up hope that her dog would be found alive in the Nevada desert after the animal bolted from the scene of a crash that critically injured her and killed her husband. Dooley was tracked down after surviving 53 days in the wild on roadkill and scattered ranch water sources. (AP Photo/Shannon Sustacha)


RENO, Nev. (AP) – Barbara Bagley says she never gave up hope that her dog would be found alive in the Nevada desert after the animal bolted from the scene of a crash that critically injured her and killed her husband.

But the Salt Lake City woman endured plenty of frustration until her beloved 4-year-old Shetland sheepdog, Dooley, was tracked down Feb. 18 after surviving 53 days in the wild on roadkill and scattered ranch water sources.

“I would think about Dooley constantly,” she said. “There were TV commercials with dogs that made me think about him and cry. He’s just the sweetest dog.”

The Dec. 27 single-vehicle accident on Interstate 80 near Battle Mountain, about 225 miles east of Reno, sent Bagley and her 55-year-old husband, Brad Vom Baur, to the hospital in critical condition. Their other sheltie, Delaney, was killed in the wreck. Dooley ran away and vanished.

Bagley, 48, suffered a concussion, broken ribs, a shattered wrist and two punctured lungs. As soon as she mustered up enough strength, she turned her attention to a search for her dog in the sprawling sage-covered plains and hills of northeastern Nevada.

Realizing what Dooley could mean for her recovery, dozens of Nevada volunteers responded to a Facebook plea for help in looking for him. But the search was canceled before it began after the Jan. 6 discovery of what appeared to be the dog’s remains along the interstate. The same day, her husband died.

“It was a horrible day for me,” Bagley recalled. “But something inside me told me Dooley was still alive out there. I wasn’t 100 percent sure, but I didn’t grieve for Dooley like I did for my husband and our other dog.”

More than three weeks later, Bagley’s spirits were buoyed after a woman reported spotting “a Lassie-type” dog near the accident scene. A subsequent search joined by Bagley turned up nothing, but a railroad crew spotted a dog matching the same description in mid-February in the same area about 15 miles east of Battle Mountain.

Further searches netted a positive identification of Dooley but frustration as well because the skittish dog kept fleeing from Bagley and other searchers. Finally, Shannon Sustacha of Lamoille, who was on horseback, and a Bagley friend driving a Jeep cornered Dooley only five miles from the crash scene. The friend managed to nab the sheltie and put him in the Jeep.

An ecstatic, tearful Bagley arrived at the scene a short time later.

“Barbara got next to us and said three times, ‘You think he’ll remember me?'” Sustacha said. “When Barbara opened the door and looked at him, she said, ‘My beautiful boy, my beautiful boy, you’re home.’ Oh, boy, all of us cried. I knew his adventure in Nevada was over. I also knew he and Barbara could start healing together.”

A short time later, an exhausted Dooley sat on his owner’s lap in the Jeep and fell asleep. He later began following Bagley around.

“I was overjoyed that I was going to have him back in my life. I think he felt the same about me,” she said.

During his ordeal, Dooley’s weight dropped from 44 pounds to 20 pounds. He was once spotted devouring a dead coyote along the roadway. A long bird bone was pulled from his throat by a veterinarian.

Since then, the dog has gradually put on weight and resumed regular walks with his owner. While Bagley is still going through the grieving process over her husband’s death and recovering from her injuries, Dooley’s presence has picked up her spirits immensely.

“He’s the physical and mental affection that I need to recover,” she said. “I owe him so much for the hope I have now and the renewed faith I have in prayer. Dogs are so great because of their unconditional love.”

Bagley, a phlebotomy supervisor at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, also thinks her husband had something to do with Dooley’s safe return home.

“It’s a message from my husband who was looking out for him,” Bagley said. “It was a miracle that we got Dooley. He couldn’t have survived much longer out there.”

22 Responses to “Dog survives 53 days in wild, reunited with owner”

  1. Tina Bembry

    oh, this makes me cry. I can’t even imagine being in Bagley’s or my Sheltie in Dooley’s situtations. My heart goes out to her and all the folks who helped search for him. I never thought of Shelties as that resourceful in the wild, so way to go, Dools!

  2. Leslie

    Some more info from Find Dooley on Facebook and a way to help:

    We are so excited that the news of Dooley and our family has gone global! However we still need help. Barbara will be facing foreclosure this year due to this tragedy and the hospital bills are adding up quickly. Please visit a website our family friend started to help the family with their growing hospital bills.

    The kindness and generosity of folks is just amazing and still coming. Thank you for all those who have expressed a wish to donate more to help with Dooley and Barbara’s continuing costs. Talk about a cause for paws—and pause!

    Here’s the link. Just click the “Donate” button on the right:

  3. Isabella Fiske McFarlin

    Wow! What a story–so sorry she lost her husband… and glad she got her Sheltie back. Thanks for letting us know about this…

    I know how I would feel… exactly as she does, I think.

  4. Barb Miller

    This is an amazing story … I read it yesterday in the Halifax Herald newspaper. Sad that the woman lost her husband and one Sheltie but amazing that she found the lost one. This will be a special bond for sure!

  5. Becky

    God reached through Dooley and touched the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people. Hope is alive if we just PAWS and let it in. They’re not just dogs.
    They’re our Best Sheltie Friends (BSF).

  6. Kathy

    Very touching story. Glad to see it had a happy ending. My cat was lost for 52 days and found her way home, so I understand what she went thu, thinking she had lost her dog forever.

  7. Liz Ramsey

    God Bless you both and may your special loving angels keep watch over you and your recovery. My heart goes out to you both.

  8. Julie (aka MaggieMae

    Isn’t this just awesome!! So happy that little Dooley survived. Hope this is what will help with healing from this horrible tragedy!

  9. Angie

    With tears in my eyes,,,,,,,I must say this is such a touching story!!!!! Thank you God for watching over him…..

  10. Judy

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. My sincere sympathy on the loss of your husband and Delaney. How alone you must have felt thinking that Dooley was lost to you as well. Your heart must have been bursting when you and Dooley were reunited. I imagine you both have a long recovery ahead of you both physically and emotionally. But you have each other to lean on, love & help each other heal. May God give you both the strength & peace you need.

  11. Dianne

    I posted last night,and just had to come back and say to Barbara…Bless you Barbara and Dooley.You will be always in our hearts.With little Dooley by your side it will help to ease some of the pain that you have to endure.

    Having gone through a similar tragedy many years ago,your tragedy has so touched my heart.

    Forever in our minds..God Bless!

  12. Sullivan

    I too read this story with pain for your loss’. I prayed for your recovery and sent my Sheltie Angel, Bambi, to stay with and keep Dooley safe and comfortable until he could be reunited with you. Good luck and God speed to you.

  13. Sandra

    So glad that this story has a happy ending for you and Dooley. I have owned 3 shelties, one I still have. My husband passed away last year and had it not been for my Cody life would be too unbearable to deal with. My husband insisted on us getting him as I feel “he knew” he wouldn’t be with me much longer. I’ve added a border collie “Caylee” to the mix now and they are the loves of my life. Dogs have a way of making us feel their love each and every day.
    My prayers are with you as you continue to deal with your loss – it is not easy but with Dooley it will be more bearable.
    God bless you Barbara!

  14. Marge

    As a Sheltie lover I am so happy that Barbara survived the tragic accident and found her forever friend, Dooley. My friend, who has since passed away, had a Sheltie who was spooked at an agility meeting one night and was missing for three months and three days living on road kill and what ever he could find. Somehow these Shelties are blessed with the intelligence that keeps them alive. Losing her husband and Delaney makes this reunion bitter-sweet but I wish Barbara the best for a complete recovery and many more years with Dooley by her side.

  15. Leslie

    Thank you for posting. I know a member of this family and it was a pretty long ordeal. And continues to be. I have been following it from day form the Find Dooley facebook page.

    It is wonderful that Barbara has Dooley back to help her recover from such a tragic accident.

  16. Rebecca

    I made the mistake of reading this one at work because I was getting all teary-eyed reading this story that’s both tragic and yet wonderful. I’m so happy that Dooley was found. What a great reunion.

  17. Bobbie

    So, so many people emailed me and called me when this story came out because it’s so similar to my novel, A DOG’S WAY HOME! I’m really really happy the two are back together so they can heal together. God bless both of them.

  18. gloria


    I eyes filled with joyful tears knowing you finally are reunited with your precious Dooley. I know your heart was shattered when you learned of your husband and Delaney passing. I could not think of more trauma than realizing that your soul mate is no longer with you and the loss of 2 of your sweet shelties must have been more than one heart can take.

    Knowing in your heart that Dooley was alive to keep you going was what all of us would have wanted to do… as a miracle had to come out of so much tragedy. The sweet photo of the two of you reunited makes all of us believe in miracles. God bless you both and keep you safe. Your physical and emotional wounds will be eased by having Dooley with you.

    God bless all the kind people that help in the search. Special blessings to Shannon Sustacha and Bagley friend for not giving up the search!

  19. Kathy

    What an amazing story. So tragic on one hand, but also a blessing that Dooley is back home safe and sound and Barbara no longer has to wonder what happened to him…

  20. Aus sheltie mum

    Barbara my heart goes out to you. You have lost so much but I hope that Dooley helps you get through the years ahead. What a survivor you are and what a strong sheltie Dooley is. Warmest wishes for the future xo

  21. Dianne

    What a sad and tragic story,.But finding Dooley after all that time has brought some happiness and strength back to her.And Dooley..made it through all and is back with the people he loves after all what he endured during those months… This story really touched me,and thankyou for sharing.


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