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Operation Overnight Sensation

Posted 10-04-2008 at 03:15 PM by Robby in WA
Written in August of 2006:

Overnight Sensation was our oldest shepard's name during her brief career as a show dog.

Last Wednesday we took our annual family backpacking trip. Our youngest is 10 now and has been backpacking for three years, so we planned a more strenuous hike this year; a little over 40 miles roundtrip w/4,500' of elevation gain/loss in three nights/four days of hiking. I really wanted to take the dogs this year as I always wish they were w/us. My wife was against it, our oldest dog is 8 1/2 and about 20 lbs overweight, but she said if the vet approved it was ok. I called the vet and she said to, "use your best judgement."

A pic of the dogs on a day hike a few weeks ago.

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On Wednesday we got off to a late start and got in about eight miles. ( I just carried in a point and shoot, so the pics aren't the greatest. )

Click the image to open in full size.

Thursday was the big day, we had to do 12 miles and the remaining 3700' ft of elevation gain ( up to 6,200 ft ).

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About 200 ft from the top, on a steep alpine meadow after about 20 switchbacks, our oldest dog went to pee on the side of the trail and her backend gave out and she rolled down about 40 ft.

A stitched together pano from the switchbacks.

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I was able to carry her ( she weighs 110 lbs ) back up to the trail and coax her the rest of the way to the campsite, but she was in obvious pain.

Our campsite at the top.

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We figured we'd let her rest, give her some Tylenol, and get off to a late start in the morning. It was all downhill from this point so we hoped/thought she'd be ok.

The next morning

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The next day she made it about a mile and a half and couldn't go on any more. We made a stretcher out of a rainfly and had to carry her down to the next camp site. It took over four hours to go two and half miles and we were beat. We knew we needed help. We decided that my my wife and the boys would hike out first thing in the morning and try to get to the ranger station before they closed at 4:30. I would stay with the dog and hike up to a fire tower to coordinate a rescue. The next day went as planned, I'm very proud of my boys; they hiked out 16 miles in six hours and made it to the ranger station by 4:00. I hiked up to the fire tower and met an incredibly generous ranger couple. I was low on food and they gave me a bowl of rice ( never has rice tasted so good ) and gave me full use of their communications gear. The policy of the forestry service is that they don't rescue dogs. If I had a sprained ankle a helicopter would be there within in an hour, but not for a dog. They offered to have a vet hike in with my wife and put her down. I would not allow that and refused to leave her. I wanted to hire a helicopter myself, but it takes at least four days for them to get a permit to land in Forest property. By 4:30 they were closing up, my wife decided to go home and put together a team of friends to hike in and help carry her out. We have an incredible group of friends and the response was amazing. I had to hike back down to the dog and we decided to meet back up in the morning. The next day I hiked back up to the fire tower. The ranger couple were friends with a local helicopter pilot and figured out an old mining site that was four miles from the dog, on land out of the forestry's jurisdiction, and *only* a 700 ft elevation gain. The couple dug a WWII era stretcher out of the attic and offered to help me carry her to the site ( he is 71 and she is 65 ). They bent the rules quite a bit, which is why I can't say where we were. The cover for the mission was tracking mountain goats, an ongoing program they're running. We hiked back down to the dog, I fed her a bunch of Tylenol and luckily she was able to very, very, slowly walk to the extraction point. When we got there the pilot said he had room for me if I hurried and got my stuff. I raced back to the campsite, broke camp, and ran back to the chopper for a ride out. After a few tears I realized I had my camera in my pocket.

Click the image to open in full size.

She's at the vet now getting x-rays and it looks like she'll make a full recovery. Turns out she had a herniated disc and elevated thyroid levels. Both have been treated successfully.

She's doing great as of this posting - October 2008.
Total Comments 4


What an amazing story and what fantastic photos! I'm not sure what John and I would have done in your situation. Thankfully our two are quite a bit lighter.

I hope this experience won't jade you from taking the dogs again. I bet they loved it especially since they are working dogs.

Now get that dog well and exercise him so he can go with you next time!
Posted 10-05-2008 at 07:28 PM by Jenn Jenn is offline
UDPride's Avatar
Great story. There are no better dogs in the world than german shepherds. they would jump in front of a moving train for you. id have hired a learjet if thats what it took.

wow, you put your four legged friends to work! helping to carry the load!

glad it all worked out and your buddy is on the road to a full recovery.
Posted 10-16-2008 at 01:36 PM by UDPride UDPride is offline
Bill Ball's Avatar
Very nice story. Glad to hear it worked out well. I was going to guess where you camped, but I don't want to blow your cover.
Posted 10-22-2008 at 01:51 AM by Bill Ball Bill Ball is offline
Ray S's Avatar
Great story and a happy ending Rob. My wife is a vet and we have 4 dogs so I know how big a part of the family that they become.

I'm glad it worked out for you.
Posted 03-09-2010 at 09:19 PM by Ray S Ray S is offline

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