HELENA — It’s every pet owner’s nightmare -- your animal is missing. For one Helena family, that nightmare stretched on for 52 days.
Chiko Olson said it started back in mid-January. Chiko and her husband were headed out of town, and Kiba -- the family dog -- was staying with their son, Matthew, in Belgrade.
Ten-year-old Kiba has been part of the Olson family since he was a puppy, and family members describe him as a loyal, gentle dog that never runs away.
But, on Jan. 13, Kiba did run away. Chiko said she thinks he may have been startled, and then got lost.
Matthew immediately started looking for him and posted information about Kiba on Facebook. Tips started coming in.
“Any lead, he followed every single one,” Chiko said.
Chiko and her husband returned home to Helena and started following tips and possible sightings of Kiba, but with no luck.
“Time went on, and time went on, and I’m not going to lie, discouragement comes in because you just don’t think with an older fella that he’s going to last that long,” Chiko said.
The search for Kiba took Chiko and her family from their home in Helena to Townsend, Three Forks, Manhattan and Belgrade.
They weren’t alone in searching -- there was a whole network of people pitching in.
“Come to find out, this sweet little lady who walks around town looks for him, people at the bank had been looking for him,” Chiko recalled.
While his family searched, Kiba braved the cold, snow and wind, and eventually, he was found several miles from where he went missing -- by Aspen, another dog.
Chiko said Aspen went outside to play fetch but got distracted by something else.
“Instead of playing ball, (Aspen) was more interested in the window well,” Chiko said.
Aspen’s owner went to look, and at the bottom of the window well was Kiba.
Aspen’s owner recognized him from missing posts and called the Olsons.
“It was a miracle, nothing short of a miracle of him being able to come home, honestly,” Chiko said.
Kiba lost weight during his 52 days away from home, but Chiko said he is happy to be back, and the family is thankful for helpful strangers who got him home.