Hunters find abandoned dog near Sand Lake Wildlife Refuge

BROWN COUNTY, S.D. At the beginning of the new year, two hunters stumbled upon a lost lab while hunting up in Brown County. She somehow survived in the bitterly cold temperatures and was taken to the Aberdeen Area Humane Society to find a new home.

The adventure of River (the lab's new name) starts at the Sand Lake Wildlife Refuge when two hunters decided to go looking for pheasants around the tail end of the season.

"We were walking single file in kind of an open area, Matt in front of me. All of a sudden, he called out my name and as I looked around, I thought it was a coyote which he initially did too and here was this lab," Hunter Scott Behan said.

After realizing no one else was hunting around them, Behan and his friend Matt Flannigan noticed how friendly River was. She had a collar on, too, but identification tags were missing.

"But was quite thin. Her hair and her coat looked pretty tattered, like she'd been out there for a while and her front legs showed a lot of sores and so forth on them," Behan said.

River even helped the hunters bag a bird.

"I'm thinking that you know my dog's gonna be bringing the bird back and here's this female dog bringing the bird back, so we really got a laugh out of that," Behan said.

Behan called Game, Fish, and Parks Conservation Officer Nick Cochran to report the missing dog. River was then taken to the Aberdeen Humane Society where she's received plenty of nationwide attention.

"We've heard from Michigan, Maryland, Vermont, some North Dakota, we have someone just from in town here that has put an application in on her too," Aberdeen Area Humane Society Manager Elaine Schaible said.

It's a situation the humane society has seen before, but she's getting along with everyone at the shelter.

"You can tell that she's a hunting dog in terms of she is used to being kenneled and what not, but she's adjusting really well," Schaible said. "You know, she's potty trained for the most part, she's really sweet, she's taken really well to being around the other dogs."

Everyone at the shelter hopes for a happy ending.

"In the back of our heads we always want to say that someone's going to come back for them, that they did just go missing. It's kinda sad that you know she was just left out there," Schaible said.

Behan thinks River survived by drinking the snow and finding shelter inside a muskrat house on the refuge.

River, along with countless other animals, are up for adoption at the humane society. To find more information, visit the link to the right of the article.