BENZIE COUNTY, MICH. — A dog from Illinois who was visiting with her family over the weekend, has had quite the adventure in northern Michigan.
In less than 24 hours, Rylee, a 10-month-old Belgian Malinois, went from falling off of a boat and getting lost in Lake Michigan, to thankfully being reunited with her family Monday morning, Aug. 29.
Rylee’s adventure started in Frankfort Sunday morning, as she and her owners, Ed and Kristin Casas left the harbor heading toward the Manitou Islands.
They were about six miles out and were having some electrical problems.
Kristin was sitting in the cabin with Rylee but Ed needed her to go up top to help. Ed says he stayed below with Rylee, as he tried to troubleshoot the problem with his mechanic over the phone.
“In retrospect I remember her coming out here to see where I was going,” said Kristin. “My poor assumption was that she would go back into the cabin with her dad.”
About ten minutes went by before Ed says he realized Rylee wasn’t with him.
“We assumed she went overboard,” Ed said.
Panic and fear soon took over. Rylee was nowhere to be seen in the water. Ed says he made a ‘Dog Overboard Call,’ over the radio. Several fishermen and even the Coastguard in Frankfort helped the couple search for their pet for several hours, but no luck.
That’s when Lynn Fiedor heard what was happening.
Her husband was one of the fishermen out searching for Rylee. The couple live downstate where Lynn runs the ‘Lost Dog Search Team.’ She and her team use social media to post about missing/lost dogs in their area, hoping through the power of social media they can reunite them with their families.
“He called me because he said he heard a distress call come out from Ed and Kristin, saying that their dog had gone overboard,” Lynn said.
Lynn says they normally stick to cases near Holly, Fenton, and Linden. But when one sticks out, like Rylee’s, they’ll go outside of the area.
Immediately, Lynn says she posted about the search on Facebook and soon hundreds of people were keeping their eyes out for Rylee.
“We ended up having over 20,000 people look at our post online and when I saw that I was like…we’re going to find the dog,” Lynn said.
One report Sunday said a boater saw a dog swimming a little off shore near Empire.
“They had scooped it up and dropped it off close to Empire Beach assuming that’s where it came from,” Ed said.
Ed and Kristin headed out to empire to look for Rylee, but again no luck.
Comments came in Monday morning say the dog was spotted near the Platte River Campground. Ed and Kristin headed that way and talked with campers who said they saw her.
“Our optimism grew…and we found her in 15 minutes,” Ed said.
Lynn and her team warned Ed and Kristin that Rylee would likely act skittish and possibly aggressive after being on her own for almost 24 hours. They advised them to use some food to attract her, and if they saw her to lay on the ground and act as if they were hurt.
It’s estimated Rylee swam close to six miles to shore, and traveled more than a dozen miles by foot.
Ed and Kristin say they owe her safe return to Lynn, who made her way up to Leland Monday afternoon just to see the dog she helped get back to her family.
“We have a happy ending,” said Lynn. “And it’s the reason we do what we do.”
Ed and Kristin want to thank everyone who played a roll in helping to get Rylee back to them safely.
They are also extremely thankful to the Leland Harbor Master who let them use his truck to drive to the campground where Rylee was found.