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Couple rescue dog, pay huge vet bill, find owner

After three days alone and wounded Dakota was in bad shape. The malamute mix wandered too far away from his caretaker during a wood-cutting expedition near Spooner Summit.

January in the Sierras can be harsh, especially for a dog used to human companionship and shelter. Luckily, for Dakota and his worried owner, Linda Cathey, far away in Chicago, help was on the way.

Steve and Lawney Wetterer were on their way home to South Lake Tahoe after a trip to Carson City, when they pulled over on Spooner Summit to give their dog Seale a quick walk.



“We heard this sort of half bark, half howl about 100 feet away as we got out of the car,” Steve recalled. “I squatted down in front of the car and started to coax the dog over. As it walked towards us we noticed his left rear leg was not in use.”

It didn’t take long for the couple to make a decision. A firefighter with the Tahoe-Douglas Fire Department, Steve called Alpine Animal Hospital from the Zephyr Cove station and got an appointment.




The leg was broken and surgery was required. It wouldn’t be cheap.

“We originally had two choices: give the dog to animal control, which we weren’t sure when or if he would get the surgery, or take him ourselves,” Steve said. “There was no discussion. We couldn’t live with any other choice.”

The Wetterers agreed to pay for Dakota’s medical expenses, which with surgery, rehabilitation, vaccinations, and checkups added up to around $1,560. They were also ready to add him to their family if his owner couldn’t be found.

“We called the Carson and Douglas County Animal Control. They said it was highly unlikely they would find a match,” he said.

The unlikely thing occurred, and Dakota’s story started to come together.

Cathey, Dakota’s owner, who was living in a high rise in Chicago – not the best place for an active 1 1/2-year-old dog – decided to leave the dog with her brother in Gardnerville while she looked for a home. Cathey had found a place with a back yard, and was looking forward to being reunited with Dakota in April or May. Then she got the call that Dakota was missing.

“I called my mom in Carson City and told her to start calling the shelters,” Cathey said.

Her mother’s calls got Cathey in touch with the Wetterers.

“I was very thankful that someone like them found him and were willing to do all they did,” Cathey said.

To express her appreciation, within a week of contacting the Wetterers, Cathey sent a check reimbursing the couple for their vet expenses.

“Once Dakota got injured I just wanted him here,” Cathey said.

The Wetterers brought the dog home after his surgery, and he recovered for two weeks in their South Lake Tahoe home. Finally, at the beginning of February, Dakota got the doctor’s OK for his flight to Chicago.

“We got him a carrier and took him down to Reno Air,” Steve said. “We had grown very attached to him so we couldn’t stick around. If we would have sat there we would have lost it.”

“He was very happy,” Cathey said of her and Dakota’s reunion at Chicago’s O’Hara Airport. “He ran up and gave me a hug. He puts his arms around my waist and his head on my shoulder.”

The Wetterers said they get updates on Dakota’s recovery. The three days alone were hard on Dakota, who lost around 15 pounds during the ordeal.

“He’s gained some weight with the Wetterers and he’s gained nine pounds since he’s been in Chicago,” Cathey said.

The Wetterers have a history of having a soft spot for lost animals. Seale, a Border collie/retriever mix, was found on Kingsbury Grade when she was just six weeks old. She was dropped off at the fire station Wetterer was working at. And not long after returning Dakota to Cathey, the Wetterers took another stray animal into their home.

“There was a golden retriever/shepherd mix abandoned down near the Horizon Casino. We now officially own him, too,” Steve said.


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