It was a terrible start to the New Year for Dent cabin owners Mike and Jenny Parker, who let out their beloved dog, Doc, that Friday morning only to have him run into the trees and disappear from sight.
It wasn't like Doc to take off and not return, and they were immediately worried. Temperatures were expected to dip down to 30 degrees below zero that night, and on top of that, Doc had a history of seizures.
"It was heart-wrenching," Jenny said. "We cried."
"He had so many things backed against him," Mike added.
Little did the couple know, the Perham and Dent communities would come together in an effort to find the missing pup.
At about 8:30 a.m. on New Year's Eve, right after Doc disappeared, the Parkers were already out looking for him. Seeing that his pawprints appeared to be headed north, Mike immediately jumped into his truck and started to search. The next thing the couple knew, their neighbor down the road hopped on his snowmobile to start looking for Doc himself.
Mike went door-to-door, knocking on people's homes and asking them to keep an eye out for their dog. Everyone from complete strangers to close friends pitched in to help search.
"I grew up in the Cities, and that kind of thing doesn't happen in the city," Jenny said as she recalled that day. "I was really impressed. Mike grew up in town, though, so he wasn't surprised."
Worried that Doc might return to the cabin and no one would be there, Jenny stayed home. She sat by the window, staring at his pawprints where he ran into the pines. Every 10 minutes or so, she'd go outside and yell for him, but Doc was nowhere to be found.
Between social media posts made by Jenny, Mike and their friends, and on local lost dog sites, Doc's disappearance was shared over 300 times online. Jenny watched these numbers as they increased, and she watched messages of support flood her inbox.
"I got so many messages from people saying, 'I'm so sorry to hear about your dog' and, 'We're praying for you,'" she recalled with a smile on her face. "So many things could've happened to (Doc). I was still holding out hope, but at some point, you need to have a conversation with yourself and be a realist."
That evening, they had to cease their search as it grew dark. Unable to deal with the unthinkable while still at their cabin, they decided to go home to the Twin Cities. Jenny and Mike sat down to watch a movie, but neither of them was able to pay much attention to it.
They were starting to lose hope, when — at about 5 p.m. Saturday evening — they got a call from a Perham number. Mike got up and answered it, only to hear on the other line that Doc just walked into the caller's yard. He was cold and hungry, but he was okay.
Jenny was immediately up out of her chair, ready to jump in the car. Mike didn't believe it right away, but once the caller sent them a picture of Doc, he knew for sure it was him.
"We got in the car, and we were on the road in five minutes," Jenny laughed.
Doc had been outside on his own for 31 hours. Mike believes he must have found some kind of shelter because he had absolutely no frostbite. He had a few infections in his ears, mouth and pads, but other than that, he was perfectly alright.
He still has his same old happy enthusiasm, kindly greeting people who come near.
"We just really appreciate the community," Jenny said, expressing her thanks to everyone who helped look for Doc. "It just gives me so much hope. I've never seen people in a community come out like this."