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After seven days with no sign of a Northern California family’s blind Labrador retriever, hope began to wane – until something caught a hiker’s eye on Saturday.

Sage, the 12-year-old canine, wandered away from the Cole family’s home in outside Boulder Creek, north of Santa Cruz, on Feb. 24.  Neighbors and friends pitched in to look for her, but there was no sign of Sage.

An uncharacteristically rainy winter, cold nights and recent reports of mountain lion activity had the Coles thinking the worst, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Then, on the eighth day, neighbor Dan Estrada was hiking with his two dogs and a friend behind his house when he spotted Sage’s light-colored fur.

“At first I thought it was a garbage bag in the water,” Estrada told the paper. “My vision is not very good so it wasn’t until I got closer that I saw it’s actually a white lab laying there lifeless in this stream – her chin just above water level.”

Estrada said he believed the dog was dead and was already thinking about how he would deliver the painful news to the Coles when Sage lifted her head. Estrada told local TV station KSBW that he ran into the stream and hugged Sage, who was so weak she couldn’t walk.

With a new rainstorm moving in after several dry days, Estrada said he thinks the stream Sage collapsed in would have filled quickly.

Estrada carried Sage over his shoulders up the steep, slippery terrain to the car where his wife and kids met them. Estrada said tears flowed all around as they got Sage into the car to bring her back to her family.

Sage is now at home resting comfortably Monday, thanks to Estrada.

“I can’t emphasize enough the amount of support we’ve received from everyone,” Beth Cole told the Sentinel. “It’s been amazing. Since she’s returned home people have been bring by snacks for her; one neighbor cooked her a steak.”