Saturday, December 2, 2023

Thunder the Wonder Dog, Made Famous for His Survival, Has Tragically Passed Away

Thunder was rooting for the Phoenix Suns during last June’s Western Conference Finals [All pictures of Thunder the Wonder Dog were provided by Sheryl Armstrong]

A German Sheperd from the Mendocino County Coast named Thunder became known nationwide in December 2019 after his then-owner shot him and left him to die in the forest near Caspar.

He would emerge days later, battered and bloodied, to an adoring public captivated by the endurance and resilience that prompted his moniker “Thunder the Wonder Dog.”

“Thunder” has lived on a three-acre, rural property in Shasta County for the last two years with his adopted mom Sheryl Armstrong running, playing, and loving life despite the adversity that marked his past. 

Sadly, this last week, Thunder was diagnosed with terminal cancer by veterinarians at the University of California, Davis. They gave him less than a week to live. This last Saturday, April 9, he passed away. 

Armstrong’s husband had passed away just months before she began following the story of Thunder and the terrors he experienced on the Mendocino County coast. She dreamed of giving him a home, of helping him heal. 

Thunder in his yard looking handsome for his dog-mama.

Then, her dream came true.

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She picked Thunder up two years ago and he “just threw himself in the car.” When they arrived at her Shasta County property, Thunder pranced and danced about his new home and he had been by Armstrong’s side ever since.

Armstrong would take Thunder on long car rides every day. She said he loved cows, looking at them, barking at them. He loved the backseat, what Armstrong called his “chariot.”

After the cancer diagnosis earlier this week, Armstrong decided to give him the best last days she possibly could. On Saturday, Armstrong took Thunder on a forty-mile road trip, where he barked at cows, smelled tri-tip on a grill, and even munched on some of the bbq delicacies.

Towards the end of the road trip though, Armstrong noticed he looked weak and tired, and he was not eating his tri-tip anymore. She knew it was Thunder’s time. 

Armstrong made Thunder comfortable in his “favorite place in the world”, the back seat of his “chariot.” Armstrong laid by his side and a veterinarian administered a simple sedative. In moments, Thunder would peacefully pass away in his sleep. 

Thunder in his “chariot”, as his dog-mama Sheryl Armstrong calls it. This ride was one of the last before he passed away on Saturday, April 9, 2022

Today, Armstrong is still deeply in mourning. She keeps thinking Thunder is there, lying at her feet, waiting to go play fetch or run around outside. Instead, she said her home feels “emotionally empty.”

Looking back on Thunder, Armstrong is inspired to heal, smile, to laugh. Even with his history of abuse, he did not let it “make him sad or not trust.” Instead, Thunder “chose to be happy.” 

That’s what Armstrong said she intends to do; “I’m going to be like Thunder and choose to be happy.”

If any fans of Thunder would like to send their thoughts, prayers, and condolences to Sheryl, email her at sherylarm@aol.com.

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  1. I am truly sorry for your loss.O know this pain and it runs deep. God Bless you for giving him 2 awesome years of love and family .I hope you will in time open your heart to another rescue , there are so many and I thought I would never put myself in this pain again when I lost my Tasia Marie after 14 1/2 years but I did and have 3 rescues , it did take me a year to adopt again but it is worth it .

  2. THANK YOU for sharing Thunder’s Story. He loved his BEST LIFE for 2 wonderful years. I lost my chocolate Lab in February and she was laying on her favorite pillow with her friends, my cats , and cow dog JULZ by her side. Her head was cradled in my lap as she passed quietly to Heaven. I know my Dad was waiting for her and she is happy and pain free. She is buried in my goat pasture, where she pretended she was a goat, and even ate grain with her goat friends. I still feel her by my side. Losing a Pet is as hard as a human, but we survive on the happy memories that they shared with us. God Bless all Folks who make their Pet’s lives the best they can. 💔🙏💔🙏💔🙏

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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