Many joined in the search for missing dog; happy reunion follows
GALICE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Otis, a gimpy, geriatric Jack Russell terrier, is no worse for wear after surviving four days in the Whisky Creek drainage while the Rum Creek Fire made its way down to the south shore of the Rogue River, fire officials said Tuesday.
Here's the full tale, as told on the Rum Creek Fire Facebook page:
“I love a good ending,” Robert Clark of Merlin said as he and his wife, Sandy, waited for firefighters to pack Otis out to the Grave Creek Boat Ramp late in the evening of Thursday, August 25th.
A wildland firefighter himself in the 1980s, some of Clark’s best memories are of finding and returning lost hunting dogs to their owners. He never dreamed someday, the favor would be returned.
Sunday, August 21st, started like many others for the couple, who decided to visit the Whisky Creek lookout with their two dogs before it got too hot. But as they headed back to their car to go home, Otis suddenly turned and began racing down the steep slope into the drainage, ignoring Sandy’s calls to come back.
The Clarks stayed for hours, walking, and driving around, calling for Otis, getting no response, and finding only a bear sign. Early the next morning, they resumed the search, leaving a blanket, food and water, and asking everyone they met to keep an eye out for Otis.
Friends and strangers joined in the search. Shuttle driver Lynn Bennett helped look and also spread the word to clients and around town. Flyers were tacked up around Lower Grave Creek Road, along Galice Road, and on Facebook.
“The nights were the hardest part, because he’s a 'bed pig' -- and we could tell he wasn’t there,” Sandy said of the ordeal.
Late in the afternoon, four very long days later, Rum Creek Fire helicopter dip site manager Michael McDaniels found a dog sitting in the mud at the confluence of the river and Whisky Creek.
“He could hardly move his back legs,” McDaniels said. “I tried to get him to follow me, but he couldn’t, and I thought ‘Oh, boy’.”
After shouting to see if the dog’s owner was nearby, he contacted fire communications and learned Otis had been reported missing several days before. While the fire communication shop contacted his owners, McDaniels and his fellow crew members began carrying Otis up the Rogue River Trail to meet them at Grave Creek Boat Ramp.
“I unbuttoned my shirt and put his back legs in it, then put my sternum strap between his front legs,” McDaniels said.
Taking turns carrying Otis, the weary firefighters arrived with their very special cargo at Grave Creek Landing about 9:30 p.m.
“I can’t tell you how much this means to us,” Robert told the trio.
The next day, the fire made a hard push to the south and east, prompting evacuations and area closures on both sides of the river, from Lower Grave Creek Road to Robertson Bridge.
After resting up and making up for several lost meals, Robert reported that Otis was back to his old self and getting around as well as ever.