YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — Forty-two days.

For 42 days, Jade was missing in Yellowstone National Park.

For 42 days, reports of sightings of the blue-eyed Australian shepherd poured in, sometimes three or four in a day, sometimes not for stretches of nine or 16 days at a time.

For 42 days, David Sowers worried about his pup, who ran off after the vehicle Jade, Sowers and his girlfriend Laura Gillice were in was struck head-on by a pickup.

But after a long 42 days, filled with trips from Denver to look for the missing dog, searches by Yellowstone employees and a whole lot of hope, Jade was reunited with her family early Friday morning.

“It’s a miracle,” Gillice said.

Sowers, his daughter Angie and Gillice traveled from their home in Denver to Yellowstone on Sunday, staying at Canyon Village after Jade was spotted multiple times in the area in the last couple of weeks.

“That’s why we got in the car and drove up,” Sowers said.

On Friday morning, Gillice was feeding their other dog Laila treats on the edge of a meadow near the junction.

“Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something black and white,” Gillice said.

Gillice asked some nearby people if they saw what that black and white thing was, and with the help of their binoculars, Gillice saw it was Jade, across the meadow.

In less than a minute “she started running toward me,” Gillice said.

At about 7:15 a.m., Sowers said Gillice returned and asked, “Who’s ready to see Jade?”

“I didn’t believe it at first,” Sowers said about finding out his missing pal was located.

Other than a small cut on her lip, Jade is uninjured. She has lost quite a bit of weight, Sowers said, estimating the already-thin dog had lost roughly 15 pounds during her adventure.

“She’s skin and bones, but otherwise she seems perfectly fine,” Sowers said.

Jade went missing on the afternoon of July 23 after Sowers’ SUV was struck head-on by a vehicle that drifted into his lane.

Sowers broke two bones in his arm, his wrist, two ribs and shattered his knee in the crash and was airlifted to Bozeman for treatment.

Following the crash, then 14-month-old Jade ran from rangers who responded to the scene. Since then, Sowers and his family have traveled back to Yellowstone four times from Denver in hopes of finding Jade.

Sowers still walks with a bit of a hitch in his giddy-up, sporting a black knee brace on his left leg and a purple cast over his right wrist.

But healing took a back seat.

“I’ve been up here looking for her instead,” he said, noting he missed a doctor’s appointment just this week.

As the family sat in the grass outside of the Terrace Grill in Mammoth on Friday afternoon, only a few hours after Jade’s triumphant return, dozens of people flocked to Jade to pet the Miracle Dog herself.

“Is this Jade?”

“Is this the dog that was missing?”

“Is this the one?”

Everyone who met her expressed astonishment at Jade’s survival.

“This has been a fantastic boost for us,” one Yellowstone employee said. “That warms my heart.”

“What a miracle!” another exclaimed.

But no employee was as excited about finding Jade as Kat Brekken.

With tears in her eyes, Brekken showered Jade in hugs, kisses and pets, calling Friday “the happiest of days.”

When Brekken, who is senior reservations agent for Xanterra Parks and Resorts, saw news of the search for Jade, she couldn’t sit on the sidelines.

“I have to find this dog,” Brekken recalled thinking.

Brekken set up a Facebook page for the search, put up posters in areas where Jade was seen and helped search for the dog herself.

A couple different weekends, Brekken and Kevin Torphy took a recording of Sowers calling for Jade and used speakers to play it in areas of reported Jade sightings. And Sowers even sent a bag of his dirty laundry overnight to the park to be used as bait for a trap set up for Jade.

Sowers and Gillice expressed immense gratitude for Brekken and the countless others who helped search for their beloved pet.

“I didn’t know there were that many people who would want to go out and look for a dog,” Sowers said.

The family plans on returning to Denver on Saturday and will get Jade checked out by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

But Sowers knows exactly what the dog requires now.

“I think that what she needs more than anything is TLC,” Sowers said.

There were times when Sowers said he didn’t think this reunion was ever in the cards, especially during the 16-day stretch where there wasn’t one reported sighting of Jade.

“I’d given up,” he said.

But as reports again started coming in, Sowers’ faith returned. And Friday was a day for nothing but smiles.

“I’ve been crying up until today. Now I’m just elated,” he said.

With Jade safely home, Sowers can shift his attention to his own healing from the injuries he sustained in July’s crash.

“It’s going to be better now,” he said.

As the family hung out in Mammoth, Sowers’ daughter Angie kept a tight grip on Jade’s leash as the pooch excitedly sniffed around and welcomed anyone who wanted to come say hello.

Everyone who stopped to see Jade speculated how on earth that small dog could survive in the wilds of Yellowstone on her own for well over a month. She probably fed on things like roadkill or animal scat and there was plenty of water for her around.

But only Jade knows the story of her adventures.

Jade made her way to Sowers, who stood leaning against a white wooden fence, sporting a shirt that said, “Only the strong survive Yellowstone.” His smile beamed as he looked down on Jade, reassuring her that she was safe at last.

“I’m not going anywhere, I promise. You and I are going to stick together,” Sowers said.

Whitney Bermes can be reached at wbermes@dailychronicle.com or 582-2648. Follow her on Twitter at @wabermes.

Whitney Bermes is the city editor and covers cops and courts for the Chronicle.

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