A Florida woman has been reunited with her dog, Rayla, an English Bull Mastiff, 16 months after it disappeared while in the care of friends.
When Rayla’s owner went to seek medical treatment outside of her town of Defuniak Springs in November of 2016, the mastiff slipped her lead and took off into the woods.
Hundreds of man hours were spent searching for Rayla according to rescuers who said the search even extended to use of thermal night vision cameras.
Eight months after Rayla ran away, rescuers said a family saw her come out of the woods behind their home appearing emaciated and was missing a leg.
Animal Control was called, but was not able to catch Rayla.
The family continued to give her food, but she would not let them near her.
Eventually, the family called a nearby rescue who ended up being familiar with Rayla's story, contacted the owner.
Rayla's owner drove over to the family's home and wanted for her to come out of the woods -- sure enough, she called Rayla's name and the mastiff ran into her owner's arms.
After nearly 16 months in the woods, rescuers said Rayla developed some skin problems, infections and a missing part of her leg.
Rescuers believe her leg injury was lost in a wild game trap and said it will have to be amputated.
Normally, English bullmastiffs weigh about 140 pounds. Rayla weighed 80 pounds when she was rescued.
Those involved with Rayla's search and rescue created a GoFundMe page to help cover the medical bills to help the mastiff recover after such an ordeal.
The woman who posted Rayla’s story, Lisabeth Beutler-Gagnon, said it should serve as a reminder to other families with lost pets.
“This story is for everyone who has lost a pet and feels hopeless. Rayla miraculously survived on her own in the forest for 16 months having to find all food and shelter, drinking from water sources with water snakes and alligators, coexisting with wild animals like coyotes for two winters, two hunting seasons and a hot summer with a traumatically amputated leg," said Beutler-Gagnon.
"Unless you have confirmation that your pet is deceased, do not give up. Remember Rayla's story, the power of prayer, how resourceful animals can be and the sheer power of the will to survive.”
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