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Hikers describe rescuing dog after owner died in avalanche

Hikers describe rescuing dog after owner died in avalanche

Credit: Woody and Tanna Knouse

by SUSAN WYATT / The Pet Dish


Posted on April 16, 2013 at 6:53 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 17 at 12:54 PM

The dog that led rescuers to his owner, buried in an avalanche on Snoqualmie Pass on Saturday was found by a group of hikers on Sunday.

Joy Lu was found after "Blue," her eight-year old border collie/ sheltie mix, led rescuers to her. The dog then disappeared.

Woody and Tanna Knouse, Kevin Calandrella, "Carrie" Carolyn E. Miesel, Cathy Macchio and  Bent Wiencke found Blue.

Woody and Tanna wrote the following account of what happened:

Our Meetup hiking group (the Peaks) planned a snowshoe for Sunday April 14th.   The night before the hike, we saw on the local news that several snowshoers were caught up in two separate avalanches on Granite Mountain and on Red Mountain.  The initial report was one man was still buried and missing on Granite Mountain and one woman was injured but being rescued off Red Mountain.  The Red Mountain woman had been snowshoeing alone with her dog but she was hiking near a group of 12 other snowshoers that were also caught in the avalanche.  When the avalanche stopped the group noticed the woman’s dog was approaching them but the woman was missing.  The dog was able to take them to where the woman was buried and they dug her out.  At that time she was alive but injured.  We later read on the news the woman had been brought down from the mountain and she and the dog were alive (later to be found as incorrect information!).   Because of the avalanche conditions we all decided to snowshoe Guy Peak, as our leader is familiar with a very avalanche safe route.

Six of us (Bent, Cathy, Carrie, Kevin, Woody and Tanna) arrived at the Snoqualmie parking area and began to get our gear ready.   As we were preparing for our day of fun, a Sheriff’s Officer (John Wartes) approached our group and asked us what our plans were for the day.   We told him we were headed up to Guye Peak.   He then told us that sadly the woman from Red Mountain had passed away while they were getting her down from the mountain the night before.  He also told us that the woman’s dog was missing on Red Mountain and requested we keep our ears and eyes open for the dog and gave us his contact information.   We told him we were going to the opposite peak of Red Mountain but we would definitely watch for the dog.    So our adventure begins.

We all headed out on our hike up to Guye Peak.   It was a TOUGH day to say the least.  There was a couple of feet of fresh snow and we all had to take turns breaking through deep new snow.  Our leader did a great job plotting a route that was avalanche safe and after hours of very hard work our group made it to the approach of Guy Peak.  It was at this time that Kevin first noticed off in the distance a dog barking.  We all stopped and listened and we could hear in the direction of Red Mountain what sounded like a distressed dog bark.  We were thinking..  could this be the missing dog???   What were the odds this was the dog – we didn’t know.   We finally reached the summit of Guye Peak and stopped for lunch.  Bent called the Sheriff Wartes and told him we could hear a dog barking in the direction of Red Mountain.  The Sheriff didn’t offer any options at that time, but did ask us to keep him posted.   So as a group we all discussed what we should do.   We made a group decision to hike down to the Red Mountain trail junction below and go towards Red Mountain to see if we could still hear the dog.  

We hit the Red Mountain trail junction and Bent determined it would be 3/4 of a mile to the basin below Red Mountain.   There was not one hesitation in the group.  Even after a very hard day of breaking snow we all felt we at least needed to try to find the source of the barking.  So we headed towards Red Mountain.  We all had agreed we would only go as far as was safe and we could not put ourselves at risk of any avalanche.   The great thing was there was a packed down trail from the rescuers so at least we didn’t have to break snow once again.  We followed the rescue trail and tried several times to stop and listen – but we did not hear the dog.  Finally just prior to the approach of Red Mountain we heard a faint barking.  We knew now that this must be the missing dog!    It sounded like the dog was 500-700 feet up Red Mountain.   We assessed the rescue path and it was very safe – winding up through the trees and not in avalanche danger.  So up we climbed once again in our hopes of finding the dog.   As we climbed the barking got louder and eventually at 4800 feet, we turned a corner and found above us a very scared dog sitting in the snow under a tree.  The dog was unsure but with some patience and food from our lunch he eventually came close enough for us to put a prusick cord leash on his collar.  We were so excited that we had found him!   He seemed in good health, although very hungry.  We brought our new little friend down off the mountain and called the Sheriff and let everyone know the dog had been rescued.   

It was now 5:00 pm and we had been on the mountain for 9 hours.   At the parking lot, King 5 news interviewed our group.  We found out the dog’s name is Blue and the owner’s sister lived in Issaquah.  A plan was made for a friend of the dog’s owner (Lynn) to meet us and we would follow her to the sister’s house to return the dog home to family.   Later that evening our group was able to reunite the dog with the owner’s family.  

Our day was bittersweet.  A woman had died in a horrible accident but we at least felt we were able to help the family by rescuing the dog and getting him back home safe and sound. Everyone pitched in as an amazing team.   It will be a day we will never forget. 

Bent Wiencke says Blue will be adopted by Joy Yu's best friend, who is also a dog lover.