By Marlee Ginter

TAHOE (CBS13) – It was a “ruff” rescue for a dog stuck in snow five-feet deep. When December dumped mounds of snow in Tahoe, three-year-old Pitbull-mix Russ got caught in the middle of it.

“Dogs are strong and smart. They can survive a very long time. We didn’t know the situation of this dog or how long he’d been out there,” said Wendy Jones, Founder of Tahoe PAWS and TLC 4 Furry Friends.

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Russ had already been missing for four months. Russ’s owner, a traveling nurse, was in Tahoe when the Caldor fire swept through. He was forced to leave when the city was evacuated, but Russ ran off never to be seen again, until now. Someone reported seeing Russ on a mountainside barking and growling unable to move in the snow.

“I followed the tracks and all of a sudden saw this dark shape under the tree and thought this isn’t good he’s not moving and thought to get really nervous and really upset,” said Tahoe PAWS volunteer, Leona Allen. “And then he opened his eyes and I’m pretty sure I screamed. I’m pretty sure Elsa heard me down the mountain.”

Tahoe Paws volunteers Allen and Elsa Gaule walked CBS13 through their uphill battle on snowshoes and with a sled to get Russ to safety.

“I kind of petted him under the chin a little bit and he did that thing where a dog rests his head in your hand,” said Gaule.

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“The sweetest thing on the planet. Just the most amazing dog,” said Allen.

“We’re just like, he’s here. Okay, what’s next? We didn’t really think about that,” said Gaule. “And then I look over at Leona and I said, ‘how do you feel about riding down on a sled with him on your lap?'”

Gaule said they all slid down and then tipped over, ending the sleigh ride. It’s the end of an adventure and now the beginning of many more for Russ.

“It’s so heartwarming, especially around the holidays and the end of the year,” Gaule told CBS13.  “And then just to have this really happy ending and to be able to be a part of that was pretty special.”

It took some digging by El Dorado County animal control, but with the help of a microchip and a missing dog report filed in August, they were able to track down Russ’s owner.

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Jones hopes the story highlights the importance of microchipping your pet. She stresses pets have a registered microchip and current name tags.