Dog Rescue at 14,000 Feet

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Dog rescue Colorado AHN.org Chris O'RileyStrangers banded together to organize an impromptu rescue yesterday after a couple, climbing Mt. Bierstadt to Mt. Evans in Colorado, found an abandoned german shepherd along a ridge connecting the two 14,000-foot mountains. 

Amanda and Scott Washburn gave the dog food and water. But, suffering with bloody paws, the animal refused to be coaxed into hiking the difficult class-three boulder-filled terrain.

Official search and rescue teams were not an option, as they do not respond to animal calls, so the couple posted the story Saturday along with photos on the local climbing website, 14ers.com. A concerned team of volunteers returned that night to make the 3-hour climb to the estimated spot but after two hours could not locate her.

Substantial efforts to put together a second rescue party failed on Sunday, but early Monday morning, eight dedicated hikers and climbers - including an experienced climber named Chris O’Riley enlisted by the Colorado group, Animal Help Now - made their way up Bierstadt equipped with a large backpack, food, water and medical supplies, in the hopes of bringing her down.

Their task turned critical when a August blizzard struck while the eight were still atop the ridge.

Finally the team, which included volunteers from local German Shepherd and Husky rescue groups, located Missy, surviving on her own since August 5, when she and her owner were injured and "in over their heads" as a storm hit.

Dave Crawford, from Animal Help Now, said if it weren't for the Washburns, who found her six days later, the dog would likely have died in the snow that fell yesterday. "It was really fortunate, because she was off-trail when the Washburns happened upon her. They really saved her life."

O’Riley called her a "sweet, gentle" dog and said she never wouldn't have gotten out of the boulder field on her own. They used a tarp to scoop her out of a crevice and carefully piled her into a backpack and hauled the 100-pound dog back down the mountain.

Dog rescue mountain Animal-Help-Now"This was a very powerful event to have participated in," Riley said via email. "Although many of us were strangers we all banded together and cooperated to pull off this incredible rescue.  It really touched me on a deep level and I feel it affected everyone involved in a similar way." 

O'Riley also has advice for pet owners: Animals can survive for quite some time in adverse conditions. Don’t give up trying to rescue them and know that total strangers will come forward to help if you need it.

At least six social websites interested in dogs, animal rescue and climbing were involved in this happy ending. Leaders of several of them have decided it is time to address the need for a comprehensive database that could help in the search and rescue of animals in emergency situations.

The notion became clear to Dave Crawford during the recent fires in Colorado. His team modified their animal emergency web site to help people affected by wildfires to immediately find locations of animal shelters in their area.

"From our perspective, one happy result is there are discussions underway, including a call today between Animal Help Now and MountainDogs.org regarding how to formalize an animal search and rescue operation."

Climbing rockey terrain - Chris ORileyAnimalHelpNow.org already offers free phone apps and a website that provides the Colorado public with a one-stop resource for assistance with virtually any animal emergency, 24 hours a day. The program immediately connects people involved with animal emergencies with the most appropriate time- and location-specific resources and services. The program is being expanded to include surrounding states.

"Even though our service is sophisticated, it doesn't fill the gaps that exist in animal emergency response," Crawford told the Good News Network. "We came across a big gap here: We need a search and rescue system for animals - and we'll work with the community to try to fill it. Certainly 14ers.com could play a big role in that."

The current services ask a user to indicate what kind of animal is being helped; (domestic pets, farmed animals, or wildlife); whether the animal is in pain or distress and whether the person can transport the animal. Coupling this information with the time of day, day of week and the user’s location, Animal Help Now directs the user to appropriate helpers, which include veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitators, animal shelters, animal control agencies and others.

Get their free iPhone app at iTunes, a free Android app from Google, or the web application at www.ahnow.org.

Animal Help Now, which began in October 2009 when a group of experienced animal and environmental advocates convened in Boulder to discuss the idea of creating such an online database, is a project of Animal Watch, a nonprofit 501-C-3 organization.

Photo credit: AHNow.org Chris O'Riley - See more photos at his blog, gratefulearth.shutterfly.com

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