Thanks to their loyal family dog and his persistent barks, a 63-year-old woman with dementia who went missing in a Texas park and was found three days later.
On May 3, Sherry Noppe leashed her black Labrador retriever, Max, and took him for an afternoon walk around George Bush Park, a 3,600-hectare park in Katy, Texas.
The pair still hadn’t come home several hours later, and worry her husband and adult children started—particularly because Sherry had recently been diagnosed with dementia.
They contacted the local police and searched the area that evening with a few family and friends. The group stayed up until 3 am, driving through the park and even resorting to breaking locks to get down trails.
When they didn’t find her, the community quickly came together. Alpha Search and Recovery volunteers Equu search their dog teams while TexasSearch rode horses to comb the area. Thousands of people pitched in to help look for Sherry.
On May 5, two search dogs found her scent, and searchers that evening picked up from where the dogs left off. Hours later, as the volunteers approached a thickly wooded area in the park, they heard a dog bark—it was Max!
Finally, Sherry and Max were found in the wee hours of the morning on May 6.
Courtney, 34, Sherry’s younger daughter, got a call around three in the morning and was told their mother had been found.
“I asked if she was alive and asked, ‘Send me a picture.’” she said.
Once she received the photo, Courtney started calling their relatives to tell them the good news.
“I was amazed at how strong she was. She wasn’t severely disoriented and out of it but definitely lost.… She didn’t know what to do,” said family friend Michael England, who joined the search efforts.
Sherry and Max both received medical care before the family came together to celebrate Mother’s Day.
Sherry’s other daughter, Jessica, 39, said that her mom is “doing great.”
“She had a bunch of cuts all over and she was suffering from dehydration, but at this point, she’s back to normal,” she said. “Everything’s healed up really well. She’s in good spirits.”
Max is also doing okay, aside from a scab around his nose and a cut on his foot that is healing nicely. Once safely back home, he spent almost an entire day napping.
“We feel like he was awake out there the entire time for three days — wide awake, protecting her,” Jessica said.
Max is described as a friendly, fun-loving, and energetic dog.
“He sees you and he’s like, ‘That’s my friend!” — jumping on you to greet you,” Courtney said. “He loves everyone and everything.”
But during the ordeal, Max became Sherry’s brave and loyal protector. The area they were found in had plenty of wild hogs and snakes. The days were also filled with heat and rain, but Max never wavered in guarding his owner.
Max had a leash and collar on when they left, but both were gone when they came back. That meant Max had every chance to leave, but he chose to stay with Sherry the entire time.
After news of Max’s heroic deed spread, the community began showering him with cookies and treats.
“He is living his best life. He’s getting everything—tons of love, tons of treats, tons of toys,” Jessica said.
Max belonged to Sherry’s son, Andrew, who raised him since he was a puppy. When Andrew passed away two and a half years ago, his parents took the dog in.
Justin, Sherry’s other son, said their mother “took my brother’s loss very difficult.” She leaned on Max and developed a special bond with him.
He said that Max is the last thing their family has of Andrew, so losing their mother and the dog would have been devastating.
The Noppes are now even more mindful of Sherry’s condition, and they are thinking of ways to keep their mom safe in the future. For now, they are happy to be reunited.
“Our mother would not be here if it were not for this whole community,” Courtney said in a press conference. “From the bottom of our hearts, thank you all.”
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