QUINCY, California (STPNS) --     Chico, a 15-year-old French poodle from Quincy, became separated from his owner in the Lakes Basin one day late in October. His owner, Louis Thomas, age 87, and family members searched and searched, but were unable to find him.

    Discouraged by their inability to find the dog before night set in, they left a note on the information board at Frazier Falls with a description of Chico and Thomas? phone number in Quincy.

    Thomas had originally gotten Chico from the animal shelter when the poodle was only 2. In their early years, Chico had served as Thomas' "hearing aid." They had been together a long time.



    Meanwhile, veteran leaf-peepers from Sonoma County were visiting Plumas County to enjoy the fall foliage highly touted in the area. It was an annual pilgrimage for the couple. After visiting the Plumas County Visitors Center at the airport in Quincy and chatting with Karri Underwood, Chris Cox and Tracey Sterling drove and hiked their way through the county armed with maps of fall color tours.

    They visited Lake Almanor and Chester, wound their way over to Graeagle, hiked to Eureka Lake and then headed over to Frazier Falls?Fall Color Tour #6. At the trailhead to Frazier Falls, they read the note about the lost dog.

    They started to hike to the falls, but Sterling was disturbed by the thought of the lost dog, old and probably scared, who had already survived one night in the cold mountains. Thirty seconds into the hike, she and Cox turned around.

    They determined to search for the lost dog. In the process, they met another couple from Sacramento who found themselves compelled to do the same thing. Both Cox and the other man, Tommy, searched for the dog for most of the afternoon.

    Occasionally, they thought they heard a dog bark; sometimes they thought they heard a whimper. They searched in the direction of any sound and fought their way through the manzanita brush in one fruitless direction after another.

    At dusk, with less than an hour of daylight left, Tommy came down the mountain back to the vehicles where his wife waited with Sterling. He came empty handed. Cox, too, was sighted on a ridge on his way back.

    Suddenly, to the surprise of the trio watching his return, Cox turned and ran back down into the canyon.

    Cox was winded and he had to quiet his breathing in order to hear the rustling of the manzanita branches. He peered into the brush and saw one small brown poodle, so scared he was even hiding his head. Chico was shaking like a leaf, hunkered down and trying hard to be as quiet and invisible as possible.

    Cox coaxed him out and carried him down the mountain to the waiting fellow rescuers. Soon Chico, saved from cold and hunger, mountain lions and coyotes, was reunited with his old friend Thomas.

    According to granddaughter Jamie, both Chico and Thomas recuperated from their separation in record time and are both doing well.

    Chris Cox, Tracey Sterling, and the couple from Sacramento were pleased that their "random act of kindness" had a happy ending. And Suzi Brakken of the Visitors Center in Quincy found herself delighted with the story of how resident and tourist met and interacted in the common quest for beautiful fall colors?leaf-peepers all.