Loyal Lab guards owner’s body in woods for more than 24 hours

Brecknock Township, Pa., resident Claudine Murphy adopted yellow Labrador Retriever mix Chase almost nine years ago after mourning the loss of her late chocolate Lab.

Chase was devoted to his owner: when she died during a walk, the dog stayed by her body for more than a day. (Photo: Lancaster Online)

“Claudine was grieving for that dog,” says friend, neighbor, and local dog rescuer Nancy Althouse, who runs an informal animal rescue group out of her home.

It was Althouse who first rescued Chase from a neglectful living situation all those years ago. She and her husband felt that Chase would make the perfect friend for Murphy, that he might be able to help her recover from the loss of her late dog.

“My husband mentioned that we had just acquired Chase. [Claudine Murphy’s late husband] Pat came over and looked at Chase, and it was love at first sight,” Althouse remembers. “But he had to wait until Claudine was ready. That was about six months later.”

Once Chase came home, the rest was history — he loved his new family and his family loved him.

“Chase was always in the car, his tail was always wagging,” Althouse remembers. “They pampered that dog.”

But last summer, Murphy’s husband passed away, so Murphy and Chase only had each other to lean on.

“Chase was not on a leash, he was just walking beside her,” Althouse tells Lancaster Online.

But then, at some point on their journey, Claudine lost consciousness.

“Claudine must have lost her bearings,” Althouse guesses.

Though Chase tried desperately to rouse Murphy, he would not be successful. Sadly, Murphy would never wake up, likely succumbing to hypothermia. But loyal Chase refused to leave his owner’s side. He barked and barked until he nearly lost his voice, hoping some neighbor would hear him and help his owner. Hours went by, and then more than a day.

“Chase must have stayed with her about 30 hours,” Althouse estimates.

It was then that Althouse herself heard Chase’s faint barking somewhere near her home. Althouse bundled up and walked in the direction of the dog’s desperate voice. That’s when Althouse discovered Chase standing over Claudine Murphy’s body. Althouse was devastated.

“He was barking to try and attract attention, and if it wouldn’t have been for him, they might not have found her for weeks,” Althouse says.

“She rescued him and then he tried to rescue her,” she adds. “And now he is without a home.”

After Murphy’s tragic passing, Chase went to stay with some family members who, for one reason or another cannot keep Chase long-term. So Althouse reached out to the community in hopes someone would consider adopting loyal Chase.

“He’s a very friendly dog,” Althouse tells the media of Chase. “He gets along with other dogs and cats, no problems. He likes kids, he likes people. He loves car rides.”

Luckily, news broke Friday morning that Althouse’s efforts to find a new forever family for Chase were successful. After receiving hundreds of phone calls from people interested in adopting Chase, Althouse has narrowed it down to two possible adopters, including another member of Claudine Murphy’s family.

“Members of Claudine’s extended family have expressed interest, and since they live close to the area we feel they have priority,” Althouse says.

She plans to make a decision about Chase’s new home by Monday morning.

In honor of her late friend’s memory, Althouse encourages others to consider adopting a homeless pet, just like Claudine Murphy did for Chase all those years ago.

“I’m sure when Claudine rescued Chase she never thought he would try to rescue her, but that’s what happens when you open your heart to an animal in need,” she says.

Sources: Lancaster Online 1-23-14, Lancaster Online 1-24-14