Tilly the dog was ejected from the family car after a collision and survived, but in the confusion, wandered of to start a new life.
He was found a few days later at a farm, his identity switched: from family dog to working farm dog.
Owner Linda Oswald was driving along Idaho State Highway 41 with her family and the family dog in the back of their GMC Yukon when they collided with another car.
Tilly was flung out of the car when the crash shattered the SUV’s rear window. He survived the ejection without serious injury, but in shock, he took flight.
A Facebook post asking people to look out for Tilly caught the attention of local farmers.
A half-dozen complete strangers, who pulled over when they saw the crash, helped look for Tilly, too. They fanned out, scouring the area near the crash site.
Oswald and her family began looking for Tilly right away and with the help of strangers, the search was on for the runaway dog..
“People just kept going out,” Oswald said, “2:30 in the morning some people were out looking for him.”
For about 10 hours on Sunday, the Oswalds searched before heading home.
“We were sore and exhausted,” Oswald said.
The first day of searching was fruitless, but the family also wrote a Facebook post that included a picture of Tilly.
More than 3,000 people shared that post. Thousands of people in Kootenai County had their eyes peeled for the 2 1/2-year-old border collie and red heeler mix.
At the Potter family’s farm south of Rathdrum, Tyler Potter told her brother Travis Potter something odd.
Hooey, one of the family’s Australian shepherds, looked funny today, Tyler Potter said. His red fur looked darker than usual.
At the time, Travis Potter didn’t think too much of it.
But a little while later, Travis’ brother Zane had another odd experience when he tried to call Hooey.
“Hooey really comes right away when you call him, and this dog put its ears back and started running off,” Travis Potter said.
Zane Potter knew something wasn’t right. He took a closer look at the dog and realized its coat wasn’t the same as Hooey’s.
It was Tilly.
Thanks to the social media post, the Potters knew Tilly. Even their grandmother, who lives in California, had seen the post and told them to look out for the dog. The Potters knew the crash had happened just 1.5 miles from their farm.
“It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, where’d this dog come from, how did it get here?’” Travis Potter said.
Moments after Zane Potter found Tilly, a Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office deputy drove by. He was searching for the dog, too.
Travis Potter said his family is accustomed to strange happenings on the farm.
They’ve had two helicopters land in their pasture – one to LifeFlight someone seriously injured in a nearby crash and another that had to land after catching on fire.
“It’s not like we don’t see crazy things happening all the time,” Travis Potter said.
Both the Potters and Oswald think Tilly was drawn to the farm and their sheep.
Travis Potter said he got a call the morning his brother found Tilly. Some of the family’s sheep had gotten out of the fenced-in pasture and were near the road.
Tilly probably chased the sheep out.
“I think that dog was trying to herd,” Travis Potter said.
Oswald said she doesn’t just think Tilly was trying to herd; she’s sure of it.
“He’ll herd anything,” Oswald said. “When I go to the dog park, he tries to herd the people into one group.”
Tilly’s adventure came to an end on Tuesday morning at around 11 a.m. Oswald ran out to see him as soon as her husband, Mike, drove up with him.
“(Tilly) was not having it,” Oswald said. “I think he was a little upset, like, ‘Hey, you guys left me out on that prairie for 48 hours.’”
And then Tilly did what any dog would do after a stressful two days on his own.
“The first thing is he ran in and drank out of the toilet, which he’s never done,” Oswald said. “He was so thirsty.”
The rest of Tilly’s Tuesday was uneventful. He ate and slept like a dog.
Oswald said she’s extremely grateful for all the people who helped find Tilly. It was a rough couple days for her and her family. They spent much of their time continuously searching.
“I just cried every day,” Oswald said. “It was ridiculous, but you get so emotional over your pets.”
She thinks the pandemic, and all the social isolation it has caused, is part of the reason so many people were willing to pitch in.
“All of a sudden, I think people saw a time to really jump out and help, even if it was just a small thing like finding a dog,” Oswald said. “There’s a lot of kind people out there.”
Wait, now that we’re at the end of this story, I have a question: Where’s Hooey?