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Barbara Bagley's dog Dooley survived 53 days in the wild before being rescued.Barbara Bagley's dog Dooley survived 53 days in the wild before being rescued.

WATCH: Missing Dog Found After 53 Days, Helps Owner Heal

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The holiday season was anything but joyful for Salt Lake City resident Barbara Bagley.

On December 27, 2011, Bagley was traveling with her husband and two dogs when the family was involved in a fatal car accident. Bagley’s husband and dog Delaney were killed, and Bagley was critically injured. Her other dog, a 4-year-old Shetland sheepdog named Dooley, jumped out of the car and ran away.

As she recovered from her injuries, Bagley focused intently on Dooley, wondering where he was and what had happened to him. She put together a Facebook campaign to find him, spurring help from a number of volunteers. But before the search could even begin, someone spotted remains along the highway that matched Dooley’s description.

Bagley was crushed by the news, but still didn’t give up hope. “It was a horrible day for me,” she says. “But something inside me told me Dooley was still alive out there. I wasn’t 100 percent sure, but I didn’t grieve for Dooley like I did for my husband and our other dog.”

And then, sure enough, reports began to surface that Dooley had been spotted in the area near the accident site. Bagley continued searching, but the skittish dog refused to be caught. Finally, on February 18, friends managed to corner and catch him.

When Bagley arrived, she was concerned that the dog might not remember her, but Dooley climbed on her lap and went to sleep, after 53 days in the wild.

According to one of the rescuers, “When Barbara opened the door and looked at him, she said, ‘My beautiful boy, my beautiful boy, you’re home.’ Oh, boy, all of us cried. I knew his adventure in Nevada was over. I also knew he and Barbara could start healing together.”

Formerly 44 pounds, Dooley had dropped to 21 and had been surviving on roadkill. He was seen eating a dead coyote, and a veterinarian who treated him found a long bird bone in his throat.

But now he and Bagley have both begun to heal from their ordeal. “He’s the physical and mental affection that I need to recover,” she said. “I owe him so much for the hope I have now and the renewed faith I have in prayer. Dogs are so great because of their unconditional love,” she says.

Not only did Bagley get her beloved dog back, but she also felt a renewed connection to her husband, whom she believes helped with the reunion.

“It’s a message from my husband who was looking out for him,” Bagley said. “It was a miracle that we got Dooley. He couldn’t have survived much longer out there.”

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