Gayle M Irwin

Gayle & Jeremiah,
her rescued shih tzu.

Little Dog Lost Reminder of Similar Experience That Launched My Author Career

Aug 06, 2023 by Gayle M Irwin

Her name is Nola, a small Shar-pei whose family owns mountain land near property my husband and I purchased many years ago. Recently, on a day her family was gone, Nola jumped on a piece of furniture and nudged open a window screen – she escaped the home. For more than a week, she roamed the woods on the mountain, where mountain lions and black bears reside. The family was frantic, of course, and because this is recreational land, they don’t live on the property full–time – in fact, they reside out-of-state. Neighbors and friends gathered to help find the lost dog, small for her breed, wanting to return the frightened animal to her loving human family. My husband joined the search (I was out of town during the time Nola was missing). Cameras were set up and sightings reported, even days after Nola left the large cabin. Dog-loving rescuers set up traps, and it was one of those, called a “missy trap” that finally reunited Nola and her human family.

Read about Nola and her family’s experience here:

      [Nola photo from family's Facebook page]

This lost dog episode occurred at almost the exact same time and near the same area when, 20 years ago, my husband and I lost our blind springer spaniel. Greg and I could relate to Nola’s family experience, and even though our dog was lost for only two days, the fact she was blind added to our anxiety. If a bear or cougar were in her path, or smelled her fear and followed her, she wouldn’t have known about the predator(s). Yes, her senses of hearing and smell were more acute, but in her panic, I doubt she would have been alert enough to try to escape danger. She didn’t even recognize or respond to our voices when we finally located her – she ran away from us. Therefore, we had to “put the sneak on” her. Like Nola’s family, we had friends and neighbors looking for her, but if/when they saw her and called her name, she ran.

Thankfully, Nola, and our dog, Sage, were found safe and reunited with their respective families.

Sage, our blind springer spaniel, on Casper Mountain

Greg and I couldn’t help but be taken back two decades during this recent lost dog adventure on the mountain. I especially because after Sage was found, my author career began. I decided her story needed to be told, her courage and perseverance, not only as a blind dog lost in the woods, but also as a sighted dog becoming blind. I created a chapter book for children titled Sage’s Big Adventure: Living with Blindness. The book highlighted Sage’s journey, her experience on the mountain, and the other adventures she had, such as going into a PetCo for the first time, swimming in a river (tethered to Greg), and camping with us. Even though she was blind, we didn’t limit her living to a house and backyard – she even visited schools and libraries with me, and those adventures became a published story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? The story of being lost appeared in another Chicken Soup book: What I Learned From the Dog.




People learn a lot from animals if we only have hearts and minds open enough to be taught and inspired.


I’m thankful Nola is once again with her human family, just as I’m thankful Sage came into the Irwins’ lives. She lived nine more years, continuing to touch people’s hearts and lives. Because of her, I became an author, and her stories, her life, continue to inspire. Who knows – there still may be a children’s book, a romance novel, or a Chicken Soup short story that will once again tell the story of a brave, intelligent, loving springer spaniel sometime in the future. Nola's story, too, just might be woven into a future pet rescue romance book. As I said earlier, dogs can inspire us!


Sage’s Big Adventure remains available for purchase on Amazon. Perhaps your kids, grandkids, students, or even yourself would enjoy a copy during these Dog Days of Summer!


Find the book here: