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Sadie the Dog Tackled America’s Longest Hikes. Now, She’s Missing on the Appalachian Trail.

Micki “Bright Eyes” Honkanen was about 260 miles from the end of her thru-hike of the International Appalachian Trail when Sadie, her 45-pound, 13-year-old lab mix went missing.

The duo was at about mile 261, just north of Lemon Gap, Tennessee in the middle of the afternoon on March 18. Once Honkanen realized her dog wasn’t with her, she immediately started running up and down the trail calling Sadie’s name. She and a friend later spent two days grid-searching the area. Honkanen, who says it’s atypical for Sadie to wander off, is now soliciting the backpacking community’s help in finding her.

“It’s just baffling to me that she ran off in the first place. I don’t know what happened to her, but for her to be gone like that is completely unusual,” Honkanen told Backpacker.

Sadie has been thru-hiking with Honkanen for the dog’s whole life, tackling paths like the Pacific Crest Trail. “Sadie is extremely experienced at hiking and backpacking, and is totally comfortable in that environment,” Honkanen said. “We have somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 miles together. It’s a lot of miles. I’m so familiar with how she behaves on a long trail. Just the fact that she’s not here is absolutely strange.”

Two days after Sadie ran off, Honkanen received a report of a sighting of her near Roaring Fork Shelter. The next day, hikers on Max Patch reported a friendly lab on the mountain.

“In the report I got, she was in a group of hikers and she was being pet by all of them,” Honkanen says. That is classic Sadie. She just loves people.”

The duo was wrapping up their Triple Crown—a hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Appalachian Trail—when Sadie disappeared.

“I didn’t want to go for the Triple Crown without her because she’s done the other two. That’s why I made the decision to do the Appalachian Trail,” Honkanen says. “My plan was to go southbound and through the winter months. And also we attached the International Appalachian Trail. We started last May at the top of Newfoundland. We’re literally at mile 3,250 right now or something on our hike. It feels so tragic.”

Honkanen has done everything from arrange volunteer hiking groups to search for Sadie to hiring a thermal drone operator to scan the woods. Sadie is chipped, she also wears an air tag, she has a collar with a name tag on it, and she was wearing a green backpack when she took off.

Those in the area who want to help could check for Sadie’s Air Tag, or keep an eye out for her on hikes.

“She’s black, but she’s an older girl so she has a good amount of gray on her face especially,” Honkanen says. “And she has white patches throughout. Some distinctive features are that her paws are quite large for her size, she has a white patch on her butt, and her ears are interesting—they don’t go up or down, but kind of to the side.”

With months of walking already behind her, the last few weeks have been difficult for Honkanen on a number of levels.

“I hadn’t had a zero day in three weeks or something like that before this happened. I was already tired to begin with,” she says. “Living on the trail with limited battery has been really challenging. And then suddenly, I have to spend 4 to 5 hours a day on the phone, texting and communicating with people, coordinating a volunteer team, and I’m going through this emotional crisis at the same time.”

Despite the challenges she’s been facing, Honkanen says she’s grateful for the support of the Appalachian Trail community.

“The fact that I have a team of volunteers is incredible,” she says “What a blessing…I’m so lucky it happened here.”


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