CODY — When Cody resident Nick Hummel went down to the bank of the Shoshone River on Aug. 17, he saw a scrappy, 10-pound dog he never expected to see again.
Rafting guide Keenan Bruce, with help from colleagues, had just pulled the dog out of a crevasse beside the river.
Hugo, an Italian greyhound rescue estimated to be 16 years old by his owners – Hummel’s parents – had been missing for nine days at that point.
“I figured after a few days, a 10-pound dog, he was probably gone, but we kept up social media,” Hummel said. “He was the happiest little guy when they got him out. I got him a bath, some food and he’s a happy little camper.”
Hugo went missing Aug. 7 while Nick’s parents, Tiffany and Todd Hummel of Rawlins, were visiting Nick and his sister Rochelle McCaslin at her home near Mentock Park.
Todd said it was unusual for the dog they call Tiffany’s shadow to even leave her side, but he did.
“We had to leave Wednesday,” Tiffany said. “We drove around and looked for him every day.”
The family also posted information about the missing dog on social media, where Todd said three local women kept up the search.
Other than a sighting of a dog matching the description seen near the river, there was no good news.
Then, more than a week later, Will Poston and Bruce, guides for Wyoming River Trips, spotted something near the river bank.
“We sometimes see deer, otters, muskrats, eagles, osprey and more,” rafting company co-owner Elyse Guarino said. “So he and his clients were trying to figure out what it was. It didn’t look like a muskrat or an otter. It didn’t look like a fox.”
After some chatting between the boats, Poston said it could be a dog.
“Will’s boat stopped to try to get the dog and the dog retreated into the hole,” Guarino said. “The hole was deep enough that when he looked in, he could no longer see the dog. He tried to poke a paddle in to get the dog, but that didn’t work either.”
So he finished the trip with his customers and told other guides and management about the dog and suggested posting it on Cody Classifieds. He was hesitant to post himself, because the last post on a lost dog he found and returned to its owner had received a lot of negative comments.
One of the rafting company owners posted it on Cody Classifieds and asked that folks only reach out or comment if they had any information or something useful to say. Within minutes the post received a comment with the flyer of Hugo.
Nick called the office and river manager Leighton Blanchard said guides had last seen the dog near Sulphur Creek and some of the guides were headed down in a boat to see if they could find the dog again. Bruce, who also owns High Country Fly Guides, Blanchard and Guarino headed down in a boat shuttled by Landon Blanchard.
After shining a light into the hole, Keenan confirmed the dog was in there. He began digging out the other side of the collapsed bank and tried to coax the dog out by shaking a bowl of dog food and tossing treats inside. They called out “Hugo puppy” in a soft, soothing tone.
Nothing worked and the dog retreated farther into the hole.
Keenan eventually made a large enough entry near the back of the tunnel that he could reach his arm inside. The guides kept discussing how best to proceed without frightening the dog more.
They presumed the number of large birds of prey they had seen in that area over the last few days likely had their eye on him and he was probably in survival mode. After a few attempts to gently persuade the dog from the hole with his hand, Keenan decided the best thing to do was fully commit.
He tried to grab the dog a few times and caught only teeth and claws before a final attempt found purchase on enough of the dog to pull him from the hole. As Keenan was pulling Hugo out, Hummel arrived at the river bank. He was the second person Hugo saw and it seemed to calm him. It took 20 minutes to rescue the dog.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Hummel said. “Most people would assume a dog like that is long gone. There’s coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, big birds, lots of predators.”
Guarino said while Hugo was visibly shaking when he left, he was clearly relieved to be with Hummel and was licking him whenever he could.
For Guarino, the effort of her guides was a clear sign she had the right people working for her.
“We had over 34 applications for employment from when we began running ads in February all the way through June,” she said. “We interviewed all of our final candidates and hired those we felt would help create the kind of community and culture we wanted at WRT and wanted to be an example of in the broader community.
“Empathy, kindness and compassion are three traits that were very important to us in addition to being hard workers, sound decision-makers, quality paddle boaters and being able to provide a top-tier customer experience.”
She added that all of the guides also love dogs.
Hugo’s family is grateful it all worked out. Last weekend Tiffany and Todd returned to Cody to retrieve the dog and thank the people who turned a seemingly lost cause into a happy conclusion.
“He’s a very small dog that has never been out of our yard,” Tiffany said. “He’s a survivor and we’re awfully blessed to have him back. We are very grateful to the people who found him.”