GREAT FALLS — A dog that spent a week in the cold is recovering after being rescued exactly one week after his owner, District Judge John Parker, was rescued trying to find it.
“We really got two miracles this week,” Carrie Parker, John’s wife, said Sunday, when the family’s new pet was sleeping inside after a week surviving one of the city’s longest cold spells.
“Duchess,” who has been renamed after a popular Disney film character following the cold-weather adventure, is nine pounds lighter, the Great Falls Tribune reported .
The rescue came just as the sun was about to set on Friday, said Carrie Parker, who could not help but recall it came almost exactly one week to the hour after Parker himself was plucked from the frozen outdoors by a rescue helicopter.
On March 1, the dog took off, leash and all, while John Parker took it out in the yard so it could relieve itself. Parker, wearing only a suit, ran after the dog.
The temperature was 4 degrees (minus 15 Celsius), 17 below (minus 27 Celsius) with windchill. Eventually, Parker became overwhelmed in the cold. He spent four hours outside before a UH-1N helicopter crew with the 40th Helicopter Squadron at Malmstrom Air Force Base transported him to Benefis Health System for frostbite treatment.
“The thing that keeps hitting me is I’m overwhelmed with not only the neighbors who helped with both rescues but the whole community that jumped in to help anyway they could,” Carrie Parker said.
“Duchess,” who had remained outdoors all this time, was found about a quarter- to half-mile from the Parkers’ residence in the Big Bend area south of Great Falls.
A neighbor, Leah Prevost, saw the dog in her yard.
Prevost, who Carrie Parker says is dedicated to rescuing dogs, grabbed a leash and gave chase in her vehicle and on foot.
“Somehow a week later this dog still was able to run which was a miracle all by itself,” Carrie Parker said.
Another neighbor, a young man named Trey, called the Parkers to alert them the dog had been spotted. He used a number that was listed on one of the fliers that had been distributed around the neighborhood.
Carrie and Charlie Parker, the Parkers 10 year-old son, jumped in the car to join the chase.
Meanwhile, John Parker, still recovering from frostbite on his feet, called Kurt Baltrusch, another neighbor, and he hopped in his vehicle.
“This dog would just not stop,” Carrie Parker said of efforts to run down Duchess.
The Parkers and Duchess really had only known each other for a half an hour before the dog bolted a week ago, Carrie Parker noted.
John Parker had just brought the dog home after picking it up from an animal shelter.
“I’m following behind her in the car and occasionally yelling for her,” Carrie said of her attempt to lure the dog in from the cold.
Earlier in the week, in an effort to find Duchess, Carrie and Charlie Parker had distributed 400 fliers with the dog’s description in the neighborhood, parts of Great Falls and even as far away from Fort Shaw.
Duchess is implanted with a microchip and the record showed she had originally been registered in Bakersfield, Calif. Somebody had picked up the dog in Fort Shaw and brought her to the animal shelter in Great Falls, where the Parkers adopted her.
“She definitely has a story to tell,” Carrie Parker said. “We have no idea how she got from Bakersfield to Fort Shaw.”
Friday’s chase lasted for about a quarter of a mile.
Finally, Baltrusch drove his vehicle in front of the dog and jumped out, blocking her from going forward with his body and the vehicle.
Carrie and Charlie Parker were behind the dog in their vehicle.
Then the strangest thing happened.
“She finally gave up the chase and jumped in the car,” said Carrie Parker, noting the doors were open.
“In five seconds she was laying down,” Carrie said. “She was just exhausted.”
Duchess was taken to a veterinarian Saturday.
She was 46 pounds when the Parkers adopted her. Ravenous and dehydrated, she now weighed 37 pounds.
The dog is recovering nicely and settling in with her new family.
“She’s just as sweet as can be and just so tired,” Carrie Parker said. “All she’s done is sleep.”
Carrie Parker said she’s been overwhelmed by the kindness and compassion of the community during the rescue of her husband and their new dog.
People prayed and brought food and helped to search.
The initial rescue of John Parker, she said, was run with such precision and skill, she said. Then neighbors continued to look for the little dog and brought her home, too.
More: Great Falls breaks record for consecutive freezing days
“It just feels like the whole community really reached out to us the whole week,” Carrie Parker said.
After everything Judge Parker went through, the family decided to give him naming rights to the dog, which had not been officially named after coming from the shelter as Duchess.
Parker decided on “Elsa,” re-naming the tough Boxer-lab mix after the snow queen in the Disney film “Frozen,” who sings the hit song “Let it Go” featuring the memorable line, “The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway.”
“It fits her perfectly,” Carrie Parker said.