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ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) — Two hunters had shot down a pheasant in a wildlife refuge in northern South Dakota when they were approached by an underweight yellow Labrador covered in sores.

To their surprise, the abandoned dog had fetched their bird for them.

“When I looked up and saw her bringing the rooster back I couldn’t believe it,” said Scott Behan, one of the hunters.

Behan and Matt Flannigan told Aberdeen American News that the lab was in bad condition when they found her in the Sand Lake Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 4. The dog had endured days in bitter cold temperatures without food, water or shelter. She didn’t wear tags and wounds covered her joints and feet from excessive licking.

“We kind of talked and decided she’d walk out with us,” said Behan. “We were taking a pretty leisurely walk, not going through cattails, because we wanted to take it easy on her.”

Behan and Flannigan brought the lab to the refuge’s headquarters. She was later brought to the Aberdeen Area Humane Society, where she was named River.

“She was also a lot thinner than she should be,” said Shelter Manager Elaine Schaible.

The shelter gave River a warm, dry kennel to recover. River slept soundly for 48 hours, according to Schaible.

Schaible estimates that River is between 8- and 10-years-old. She can only speculate why River was left near the refuge, but she suspects River “could’ve gotten lost during a hunt and the owner didn’t care enough to go after her.”

River’s condition is improving under the care of the shelter. She’s available for adoption.

“Hopefully she’ll get to a good family,” said Behan.


Information from: Aberdeen American News,