Image source, Courtesy Ben Pascal

Park rangers at Montana's Glacier National Park completed a very special search and rescue mission last month, returning a teddy bear home to a six-year-old girl.

Naomi Pascal had brought her beloved Teddy, a small brown bear with a button nose, on a family trip to the sprawling national park.

Teddy was the first gift Ben and Addie Pascal sent to Naomi before she was adopted from an Ethiopian orphanage in 2016.

"Most of the kids in the orphanage, they share all the toys," Mr Pascal told the BBC. "But Teddy was hers."

When Ben and Addie flew to Ethiopia to meet Naomi and bring her home to Wyoming, Teddy came along for journey. Since then, her fuzzy friend served as a near-constant companion, joining Naomi on family camping trips and holidays to Rwanda, Croatia and Greece.

And so last October, when Mr Pascal took his children on a hiking trip in Montana, Teddy came to see the sights as well. But on the drive home, Naomi realised her buddy was missing.

"We were probably an hour from the trailhead and Naomi said 'Where's Teddy?" Mr Pascal said. "My heart just sank."

It had become too late – and too dark – to go back and look. And hopes of recovery the next day were dashed by an overnight snow, closing higher elevations of the park for the season, and effectively cutting off access to Teddy.

Naomi was distraught, Mr Pascal said. "She met Teddy before she met us."

In June, the Pascals made a renewed plea for the missing bear, hoping the warm months may make him easier to find. Addie Pascal put out a call on Facebook, asking for anyone travelling to the Hidden Lake Trail in Glacier National Park to keep an eye out.

"He's been by her side for so many milestones," she wrote. "But there are many more adventures to be had!"

But unbeknownst to Naomi and her parents, Teddy had already been found.

As Glacier park rangers conducted their annual post-season clean-up, they found a small soaking wet teddy bear buried in the snow. On a typical clean-up, the now-mucky bear might have been thrown out.

But Ranger Tom Mazzarisi, who monitors bear activity in the Hudson Bay District, had a different plan.

"Bears are my passion. I just didn't have the heart to throw it away," he wrote on the park's Facebook page. "There was something special about this teddy bear, so I adopted him and named him Ceasar."

The newly adopted 'Ceasar' became the mascot for Ranger Mazzarisi's patrol car. He sat proudly on the dashboard, keeping his eyes out for other wild animals and helping Ranger Mazzarisi keep the public and wildlife safe all year long.

This autumn brought another turn to Teddy's story. A family friend of the Pascal's, Terri Hayden, returned to the park in late September and spotted the bear in a ranger's truck.

Image source, Courtesy Ben PascalImage caption, Teddy "Ceasar" in the ranger car

She took a photo and sent it to Abbie Pascal, who confirmed the little bear was, in fact, Teddy.

That night, Ms Hayden video called the Pascals and told Naomi she had a surprise for her.

"Naomi said 'Teddy?' She started screaming, it was really sweet," Mr Pascal said.

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Naomi, whose favourite thing to do with Teddy is cuddle, said she missed Teddy "really much" for the year he was gone. "And then when I found out he was OK, I was really happy he was coming home to me."

Even more special than Teddy's homecoming has been the outpouring of love from so many strangers, Mr Pascal said. "The story has touched people's hearts and brought a sense of hope."

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To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.Media caption, 'We've discovered the healing power of teddy'