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Boyan Smilov, 23, says, “God always protects you and looks out for you, even though you may not realize that He is doing it.” (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)

Stray Dog Saves Mountain Climbers in Bulgaria

Or was it a stray dog?

By Andrew McChesney

Two young men started down the hiking trail just as the early morning sun peeked over rugged mountains in Bulgaria.

Their backpacks were loaded with food, water, clothes, and a tent. The young men were three days into a five-day hike of the Balkan Mountains. The previous day, they had reached the highest point, Botev Peak, and now they faced a long 9 ½-hour trek before they could pitch the tent for the night.

Almost as soon as they started hiking, Boyan Karl Smilov noticed a dog following them.

“Look at that,” Boyan told his friend, Lyubo. “Maybe he is following us to the place where the trail splits in two.”

He was a straggly white-and-brown dog with patches of dried mud clinging to his long fur. He was enormous. If he stood on his hind legs, he would be taller than either of them.

Boyan called over the dog, and he and Lyubo patted him. The dog wagged his tail.

It took two hours for Boyan and Lyubo to hike to the place where the trail split in two. Then the trail became very steep, and they struggled to climb up it.

The dog, however, easily climbed ahead of them. When they stopped to catch their breath, the dog also stopped and looked at them, panting, with his long tongue hanging out. It looked like he was laughing at them, and his expression seemed to say, “Come on you two-footed creatures. You’re too slow.”

Reaching the top of the next peak two hours later, Boyan and Lyubo decided to give the dog a name. Lyubo, who was good at names, said, “Let’s call him Courage.”

“That’s a great name,” Boyan said. “Good job in following us, Courage.”

Lyubo laughed.

“Courage, thank you for leading us,” he said.

Boyan and Lyubo continued hiking, with Courage leading the way. Cow herders live on the Balkan Mountains, and the hikers passed many herds of cows that were guarded by big, mean dogs. Sometimes the dogs barked and snarled at the hikers.

After a while, Courage disappeared.

“He must have gone back to where we spent last night,” Boyan said.

At long last, the hikers reached the clearing whether they planned to spend the night. Boyan was ahead of Lyubo and turned around to see whether his friend was catching up. In the distance, he saw Courage descending a hill.

“Look, there’s Courage!” he yelled.

Courage calmly walked passed the hikers and lay down in the clearing. He disappeared while they pitched the tent.

Story continues below

Courage the dog standing in high grass as Lyubo, pictured, and Boyan hike in the Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria. (For Adventist Mission)

That night, the mountain climbers ate hot vegetable broth and listened to a sermon on Lyubo’s cell phone while snuggling in their sleeping bags. The preacher, a psychologist, spoke about stress.

“Sometimes people need to experience stress so they can deal with stressful situations later on,” he said.

He finished the sermon by saying, “May God help us with this. Amen.”

As Boyan and Lyubo settled down to sleep, they heard the growling of a dog outside the tent.

“Is that a wolf?” Boyan asked.

Then they heard the sound of a herd of cows go by.

“It must be the growling of a cow herder’s dog,” Lyubo said and promptly fell asleep.

Boyan, however, was nervous and couldn’t sleep. He could hear the dog walking around and growling menacingly. His imagination took over, and he thought, “Any moment now the tent is going to rip open, and we are going to have to fight for our lives.”

He looked over at his friend, who was sound asleep,

The growling and pacing got closer and closer and then stopped by the tent. Boyan reached for his small hunting knife. It wasn’t much bigger than a pocketknife, but it could be used to defend himself.

Then the sound of snoring pierced the night air.

Boyan heaved a sigh of relief.

“Whew, it’s Courage,” he thought.

The missing dog had returned.

Just as he was dozing off, loud barking shattered the still night. Two dogs were barking at each other. Fully awake again, Boyan realized that the barking came from Courage and was a cow herder’s angry dog. But this time he wasn’t scared. He felt safe.

“Ohh, that’s why Courage was following us,” he thought. “God sent him to protect us tonight.”

Knowing that God was looking after them, Boyan fell asleep.

The next morning, Courage disappeared and never returned.

“God sent Courage to us to protect us,” Boyan said. “He followed us as long as we needed him and then turned back.”

“Yes, definitely,” Lyubo said.

Psalms 91:5 has taken on a new meaning for Boyan. The verse says, “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night.”

“God always protects you and looks out for you, even though you may not realize that He is doing it,” he said. “He won’t hesitate to use every power on Earth and in heaven to save you.”

Boyan is now 23, and he has never forgotten Courage. When he is scared at night, he remembers Courage and tells himself, “You don’t need to be afraid anymore. Everything is going to be fine.”

Boyan Smilov remembering Courage the dog. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)

Part of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering in first quarter 2020 will help construct a new church building for Sophia West Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sofia, Bulgaria. Thank you for planning a generous offering.