Roscommon Family Dog Goes Missing for Months, Found Alive and Well

If he could talk, this chocolate lab would have quite the tale to tell.

Missing for four months — now reunited with his family, alive and well.

Ruger’s owners say he was riding in the bed of their pickup truck last year…

And must have run off when they parked.

Ruger was last seen in September, in the parking lot of the Home Depot in Houghton Lake.

Four months later, he was found in Lyons Township in Roscommon County…20 miles away.

9&10’s Cody Boyer and photojournalist Jeff Blakeman walk us through Ruger’s incredible journey.


“He means the world to us,” said Jeremy Ryan, Ruger’s owner. “Just like our kid."

A survivor’s story, locked behind brown eyes…

Ruger’s adventure began in a parking lot last September.

“I noticed there’s only one dog in the back of the truck, so I was thinking maybe he was laying down in the bed of the truck, so I pulled over and he wasn’t there,” Jeremy says. "Started driving back and forth down M-55, searching for him, calling my brother, wife, mom, everybody out, helping us look."

"We were just like, oh, somebody will find him,” said Courtney Ryan, Jeremy’s wife. “Somebody will call. He’s got all of his information, tag information on his collars so we weren’t too worried. Then it just kind of kept going and going.”

After several weeks, the Ryans started trying new tactics.

“We started printing off 300 fliers and passing them out at businesses,” Courtney said. "The thing that kind of kept a glimmer of hope for us is that he is microchipped and knowing that if someone did pick him up or took him to the vet, they would know that he was ours."

Days turned into weeks, then months.

Jeremy said he never stopped thinking about Ruger.

"We got him at 8-weeks-old,” Jeremy said. “At the time, I had just had knee surgery so I was off work with him and was able to start training him for duck hunting. Every single day, I worked with him. He’s just been a great dog."

"He’s been great with our daughter,” Courtney said. “Ever since she’s been born, she’s been his baby. When she was learning to walk, she would pull herself on him and hold onto him. They’d walk next to each other."
Then, last week, Ron Cunningham and his wife over in Lyons Township noticed something peculiar: familiar brown eyes under the house down the street.

“I just happened to look over at this house and I saw the dog under the deck and I said, well heck…that’s not normal,” Cunningham said. "[My wife’s] an animal lover. She says we’ve got to take it down and try to feed it or something."

Ruger called the space underneath a cabin home for who knows how long.

But to get here, Jeremy says he must’ve traveled 20 miles.

When Ron found him, he had no idea.

“I did see a poster down at one of the stores down here a while ago but I never thought anything of it,” Cunningham said. “We would try to get close, try to get close and he would growl and whine."

With the help of social media, Ron, his daughter and the Ryans teamed up with Roscommon County Animal Control, who caught him in a live trap.

With the help of social media, a reunion at last.

"You don’t know what to expect. Is he going to remember me?” Courtney said. “Obviously, it’s like we never left."

Jeremy and Courtney took Ruger to the vet to be checked out.

His results?

“They said healthy as a horse,” Jeremy said. “He only lost 2 pounds from the time he went missing to when we found him. As healthy as he is and as good as he looks, we think somebody possibly picked him up and brought him this way. Animal Control looked at his paws, nice and soft so it doesn’t look like he’s treaded 20 miles but you never know."

And Ruger didn’t forget a thing, including his duck hunting commands.

The Ryans say they have the community and the Cunningham family to thank.

"The extra effort that they went through…it’s the reason we have him back,” Courtney said. "It’s always going to be in the back of our mind."

Through it all, Ruger’s microchip gave them hope…

A hope they now aim to give to others at the Roscommon County Animal Shelter.

"Half of the reward was donated by friends and family, so we gave that part back to them,” Courtney said. “The part that we saved up ourselves, we’re sponsoring 25 animals to get microchipped.”

The Roscommon County Animal Shelter is holding an event this Sunday.

25 pets can get microchipped from the pockets of the Ryans…

…A small bit of hope they want to give for anyone else who might find themselves without a dog like Ruger.

"That was the one thing that gave us, that kept us hoping that, one day, if he ends up at a shelter or something like that, they would scan him and he would come back to us,” Jeremy said. "Having him back is…is great."

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