HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Sherry Noppe, the woman missing since Tuesday along with her dog, was found alive by searchers early Friday morning in George Bush Park, according to Harris County Precinct 5 Constable Ted Heap.
Noppe was found at 3 a.m. by a group of volunteers who were alerted by the sound of her dog, Max, barking in the woods, Heap said.
Noppe was taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Katy to be evaluated. Officials said she was a little shaken up and had cuts and bruises but should make a speedy recovery.
"She's doing surprisingly well for how long she's been out there and the conditions that we were expecting," daughter Courtney said. "The heat. The rain. We're very grateful."
Noppe is still being checked out, but is expected to make a full recovery and may be released Friday night. She has some cuts and bruises and was pretty shaken when they found her.
A friend of the family is calling it a miracle and said Max the dog is a hero for helping signal searchers with his barking.
"With Max, that dog had no leash, no collar, and stayed by her side for three days," Noppe's son, Justin said. "And that just shows you the loyalty the dog has."
Deputies, Texas EquuSearch, family and friends had been searching the massive 2,700-acre park on ATVs and on foot since earlier this week.
When they got a hit from a K-9, the searchers turned off their ATVs and heard Max barking. That led them right to Noppe and Max after a three-day exhaustive search.
"The person out there I knew who was searching for her informed me they had found her and I didn't believe it," Courtney said. "I said I want a picture and I got that picture and I started calling everyone, and it's the greatest news I could have ever gotten."
"It's been a blessing to us to bring our mother home on Mother's Day – this weekend's going to be very special for us," son Justin Noppe said.
Noppe was last seen on a surveillance camera early Tuesday afternoon walking Max, a black Labrador, near her Parkland Village neighborhood in Katy, which backs up to George Bush Park.
Searchers continued looking into the night Thursday even as storms rolled through the area. A small group of volunteers who are friends with Noppe's children were able to find her thanks to Max's barking, her children said.
“And we knew when that dog barked -- there should be no dogs out there – that was her," said Michael England, who grew up with Noppe's children. "She wasn’t severely disoriented or severely out of it, but definitely lost, and didn’t know what to do."
"I'm grateful for them not giving up, for pushing on," Courtney said. "They really were committed."
Noppe was recently diagnosed with dementia but despite her memory loss, was said to be very familiar with the park's trails.
Her children believe Noppe remained in the same location, about two miles from her home, the whole time. She was found about 50 to 100 yards into the woods off a trail in the park.
As for Max, he was being evaluated at a veterinarian and was due for a bath. While Max is special for his loyalty to Noppe during the days she was missing, he has a deeper connection to her children.
"Max was our brother's dog, he passed away two years ago," Justin said. "He's the last thing that we really have of him. To get them both back is a silver lining."
Her children also added their gratitude for the Katy community for their efforts to find their mother.
"It was like it was everyone's mother, not just our mother," Justin said. "It touches everyone deeply."
Tips about possible sightings had poured in over the last few days.
“We’ve had two sightings that are more credible than others, we’ve had about 200 non-credible sightings," Jake Stovall with Gulf Search & Rescue said earlier this week.
A Facebook page called Find Sherry had thousands of members. One post included a photo of a chair, a dog bowl and bottle of water with Noppe's name on it that someone left on a trail with hopes that Noppe would see it.