Tillie is an Irish setter and spaniel mix who lives with her owner, B.J. Duft, in Vashon Island, Washington. Two years ago, Tillie met a young Basset hound named Phoebe at dog daycare. The two hit it off, and when Duft noticed this, he decided to adopt Phoebe. Since then, the two dogs have become best friends and are never apart.
This past September, Phoebe slipped out of Duft’s house. Tillie, who would never run away by herself, followed Phoebe to keep track of her. The two dogs wandered for several miles until they reached a remote wooded area. Then Phoebe fell into an old cistern. Concrete rubble was piled at one end of the cistern, and though Phoebe could stay out of the water by sitting on it, the cistern was too deep to jump out of. Phoebe and Tillie didn’t know what to do.
Duft was not too worried when he found that the dogs were gone - they had slipped off several times before and had always turned up in a day or two. But as the days went by with no sign of them, Duft got a little worried and contacted Vashon Island Pet Protectors (VIPP), a nonprofit animal rescue group. Amy Carey, a volunteer at VIPP, determined to do all she could to find the dogs, but after a week went by, it seemed there was no hope. Then VIPP was contacted by Joe Curiel. He said he had seen a red dog on his property several times in the last week. When he approached the dog, it ran back into the woods. With this clue, Amy and her team began to search the woods around his house, calling as they went. Finally they heard a small bark in response. They quickly tracked down the dogs. Tillie was sitting beside the cistern where she had been waiting for days, not willing to leave her friend, except to look for help! The dogs were not hurt, though they were starving and scared.
Shortly after, the dogs were reunited with Duft, who was not surprised at Tillie’s loyalty: “She’s a very caring, loving, nurturing dog,” he said. “And the two of them are best friends.”