Friday was Tinker the hound’s lucky day.
About two weeks earlier,Tinker was running through the woods near Council, learning to hunt bear. Then she apparently fell through a hole near Micah Creek, dropped about 20 to 25 feet and ended up in a large, damp cave alone.
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On Friday, she heard voices. Among them were Dan Friend, of Eagle, and his brother Bret Friend, of Boise, who were revisiting the little-known, unmarked cave with relatives as part of a family reunion.
“We’re getting ready to go into it and we hear this whining,” said Friend, who retired as Eagle’s fire chief about five years ago. “Then she bayed. A dog is down there. We couldn’t believe it.”
First Bret, then Dan rappelled into the cave, where they were greeted by a very skinny and relieved redtick hound. Her name, they later learned, is Tinker.
“She’s such a sweet, mellow dog, too. So nice,” Dan Friend said.
The brothers put her into a duffel bag with only her head sticking out, and family members hoisted her up to the surface.
Tinker had apparently disappeared July 16 while being trained to hunt bears in the Payette National Forest. She was wearing a tracking collar, “but the trainer lost the signal because she was underground,” Friend said.
The Friends found her July 29.
“It’s pretty remarkable she could survive for two weeks,” Friend said.
Although Tinker had no food or water, he said, the cave is a cool, moist environment with a mud floor and condensation on the walls that likely kept the hound alive.
Other hound owners who had been notified about the missing dog took Tinker in until she could be reunited with her trainer, who lives in Firth, and then her owner, who lives in Montana.
“You can’t run bears with dogs in Montana,” Friend said. “You can in Idaho.”
For decades, the Friends have been attending an annual reunion for their mother’s side of the family near Council along the Middle Fork of the Weiser River.
And about 40 years ago, a relative introduced them to the cave, which has been a favorite family secret. Off an old logging road in the Payette National Forest, it’s basically a hole in the ground that opens to a long drop and some caverns.
“Only a handful of people know this cave is there,” Friend said. “It’s nice to have a cave that doesn’t have human activity to mess it up.”
Tinker’s owner, Drew Zeiler, emailed Friend around 8 p.m. Monday with an update.
“Just got Tinker back home, and she’s enjoying a nice steak dinner and some couch time,” Zeiler said in the email.
Thinking about Friday’s rescue, Friend is nearly as grateful as Tinker was.
“We hadn’t gone there for 30 years until last year, and then we went again this year,” he said. “And we happened to be there at the right time.”
“You just feel so fortunate that you were there,” he said. “It has to be fate.”