A whistle — a distinctive whistle according to Julia Furrer — was all it took to bring Luna the Australian cattle dog out of her funk and make the woman, her husband Bruno and their 4-year-old twin girls very happy.

“We just couldn’t get her to come to us,” said Furrer while describing a nearly four-month ordeal that ended when the skinny, lost dog was found living at a vacated barn near Larkspur.

But Bruno Furrer’s whistle, combined with “possibly the wind blowing his scent to her,” according to Julia Furrer, ignited Luna and she ran straight to Bruno, “crying and yipping all the way.” The dog jumped into her owner’s arms and immediately licked his face.

The search began for the Palmer Lake family on Mother’s Day when Luna found her way out of the white picket fence surrounding the Furrer’s yard.

A neighbor walking his dog noticed Luna wandering near the road and tried to coax her back home. But she was startled and ran away.

An ad was placed and the Furrer’s got a call a couple days later from an unidentified woman in Perry Park, 12 miles north of Palmer Lake.

The woman thought she saw Luna and called animal control to help catch the dog. When the Douglas County officials arrived, however, Luna got spooked again and sped away.

“We went there a few times a day and searched and searched,” Julia Furrer said.

She put another ad on craigslist.com and filed a lost dog report with the Humane Society.

“Our search slowed eventually,” she said, noting that Palmer Lake took down some of the lost dog signs and her updated posts on craiglist.com became fewer and farther between.

Then, on Labor Day, the Furrers got a call from the Humane Society alerting them to another craigslist.com ad for a found dog in the Perry Park area.

The ad belonged to Victor Wilcox and his wife Shelley Tailer, who saw the dog near a vacant farm along Colorado Highway 105.

“We saw her at the side of the road,” Wilcox said. “She kind of looked hungry. She was very thin and it was really hot out.”

The couple tried to approach Luna, but she followed her pattern and ran into a barn. The ad proved very fruitful, however. Wilcox and Tailer got “several” responses within the first hour. All of them pointed to the Furrers and Luna.

“We were really excited,” said Julia Furrer. “We were surprised that she was still there (in Perry Park).”

They got to the barn, met Wilcox and went to see their dog. But Luna just wasn’t the same, Julia Furrer said. The Australian cattle dog, also known as a blue heeler, looked at the Furrers as if they were strangers, and turned and walked away.

Julia and Bruno Furrer spent the next two days, which “seemed like forever,” coming back again and again. They left food and water, and hoped their 6-year-old dog would “snap out of it,” she said.

“Bruno and Julia never gave up,” Wilcox said. “They were so patient to try to get her back and make sure she knew who they were. It had to be heartbreaking for them.”

On the sixth trip Bruno Furrer used his magic whistle. That got her attention.

“It was amazing,” Julia Furrer said. “We thought she had just been in survival mode and would eventually come out of it.”

Luna returned home 15 pounds lighter than she was on Mother’s Day. She was reunited with the Furrer’s other cattle dog, Zoe, and received a welcome of hugs and kisses from the twins.

The dog immediately warmed up to the familiar home. Luna has regained 10 pounds and is back to normal except “she eats like she doesn’t know when she’ll get her next meal,” Julia Furrer said.

Wilcox and Tailer, who have an Australian shepherd named Riley, said the two families have “kind of become friends.” As for Luna and Riley, they both like Frisbee and have a doggy play date scheduled in the near future.

Wilcox points to Luna’s toughness and the phenomenon of craigslist.com for bringing a happy ending to the story.

“It was just kind of amazing,” he said.

Contact Matt Steiner at 636-0362 or follow him on Twitter @gazsteiner.