Dog Leads Rescuers to Missing Texas Woman with Dementia

“We feel like he was awake out there the entire time for three days—wide awake, protecting her.”

Sherry Noppe Dog Max
Photo: Courteney Noppe

An afternoon walk turned into an agonizing three-day ordeal for a Texas family earlier this month.

Sherry Noppe, 63, took her three-year-old black Labrador retriever, Max, for a walk on May 3. When Sherry, who had recently been diagnosed with dementia didn't return to her home in Katy, her concerned husband and children contacted law enforcement.

In no time, community members as well as search dog teams from Alpha Search and Recovery and volunteers on horseback from Texas EquuSearch were combing the area.

There was no sign of Sherry and Max until May 5, when two search dogs alerted to her scent. Hours later, searchers heard a dog barking from a thickly wooded area in George Bush Park in Houston. It was Max.

"Someone that was out there called me around three in the morning and said that they had found her," daughter Courtney Noppe told Today. "I asked if she was alive and asked, 'Send me a picture.'"

Sure enough, it was Sherry.

Family friend Michael England, who participated in the search, told KHOU that she and Max were found several hundreds of yards into the woods, in a "super thick" and "marshy" area where one could easily get lost.

"You can walk 50 feet in there and get turned around," he said.

Both Sherry and Max received medical care and were reunited with their family in time for a Mother's Day celebration.

"My mom is doing great," daughter Jessica Noppe told Today. "She had a bunch of cuts all over and she was suffering from dehydration, but at this point, she's back to normal. Everything's healed up really well. She's in good spirits."

Max is also doing well. "He just has a little bit of a scab around his nose, and he had a cut on his foot that's healing up well," Jessica said, adding that Max slept for almost an entire day when he got home.

Max black lab
Courteney Noppe

Wild hogs and snakes are plentiful where Sherry was located. Despite being described as a "goofball," Max turned out to be quite the protector.

"We feel like he was awake out there the entire time for three days—wide awake, protecting her," Jessica told the publication. "When they left, he had a leash and collar on. And when they came back, his leash and collar were both gone. So, he stayed with her the whole time with no leash and no collar on."

Max is more than just a family dog. He started out as a hunting companion to one of Sherry's sons, who died in 2019.

"My parents inherited him as the last thing that they had from their son," Jessica told Today. "We're barely still trying to get over my brother. So, to lose not just my brother, but then, a couple years later, my mom and then the only thing we had left of my brother would've been devastating to our family."

Courtney called the outcome a "miracle."

"I'll say this: My brother was watching over all of us to make sure both her and Max came home to us" she told Today.

Good boy, Max!

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