“It never rains, but it pours” the old saying goes and in rescue that saying proves true far too often. What you are about to read is Duke’s story, but it is also, in a way, mine. Unbeknownst to me, I would play an integral part in saving this dog’s life.
It was Memorial Day weekend and I was home working on my computer. At approximately, 12:30pm, I received an email letting me know I had a private message on Nextdoor. The message was from a woman named Miranda, who identified herself as a member of the Sedona Police Dispatch. She related that there was a dog who “couldn’t get off” the Little Horse trailhead and that the police were unable to respond. She asked if I could put her in touch with local trappers to help this dog.
I sprang into action, immediately sending Stephanie Dunshee of the Sedona Independent Humane Trappers a personal message on Facebook, alerting her to the situation.
I waited. Five minutes went by without a response. I’m not a patient person and worried that perhaps Steph was unavailable this holiday weekend, I posted an additional message on Facebook, tagging other members of the team.
Again, I waited. Another five minutes went by. Concerned about the dog, I decided to place a call to Stephanie. The phone rang six times, then went to voice mail. I was just about finishing my message when my computer alerted me that Stephanie had responded to my original PM saying: “Will get on it now.”
I hung up my phone, but Steph called me right back, letting me know that Paula Meade was on her way to the trailhead. Sandy MacBeth was also on the move, but caught up in the holiday traffic in West Sedona. Leann Weber also responded and had the foresight to bring with her a sturdy, moving blanket that could be used as a stretcher if needed.
The team mobilized, I messaged Miranda at the police station that help was on the way. She got back to me with the dog’s location which I passed on to Stephanie, who was acting as coordinator for the team. Paula was now on site but couldn’t locate the dog.
Finally, Duke and his parents were found. Duke, a 130-pound lab, had collapsed on the trail at approximately 10:30am. It was learned later that Duke had suffered an infection in his hip area several weeks before, requiring surgery, and, while the infection had cleared, he was not in good enough shape to withstand the heat and altitude here in Sedona. Like a dog, however, he kept this information to himself and his parents thought he was fully recovered. His parents also believed there would be water in the creeks at the HT trail and Oak Creek. They got this misinformation from tourist social media, which, like most social media, is rife with disinformation.
Duke’s dad carried all 130lbs of him from Bell Rock to a place where the family had to admit they needed help. They were about 1/8 of a mile from HT Bridge. Duke’s mom ran three times to the Little Horse trailhead where she could get cell reception to call for help, then ran back to join her husband and dog who were sitting in the shade of a tree. Needless to say, the family was exhausted when Paula found them.
Stephanie, acting as team coordinator, worked the phones tirelessly trying to get additional help for the dog and direct the other trappers to his location. This was difficult as Duke’s owners were not where Miranda thought they were and were actually further away than expected. Finally, Stephanie had fire dispatch ping Paula’s phone to pinpoint their location.
The temperature now had soared into the 90s with clear skies. The Trappers brought lots of water with them and they, along with Duke’s mom and dad, worked tirelessly keeping the dog hydrated so he didn’t succumb to heat stroke.
Assessing the situation, Paula, Leann, and Sandy determined that the dog, unable to walk, would have to be carried out., The three trappers and Duke’s parents thus began the daunting task of carrying the dog, in the blanket that Leann had brought along, down the trail, in the hot sun, to safely.
Knowing more help was needed, Stephanie put out an SOS on Facebook calling on any able-bodied person in the area to help evacuate Duke from the trail. Her call was answered by Josh Gray who ran to the trailhead to assist the trappers and Duke’s parents in carrying the dog on the makeshift stretcher.
In the meantime, Stephanie also contacted the fire department station near to her home and enlisted the firefighters’ support in bringing the dog to safety. They arrived at the trail shortly thereafter with a rolling gurney to assist the exhausted family and trappers.
Finally, the combined efforts of all these folks (it takes a village, you know), brought Duke off the trail to safety. “His tail never stopped wagging,” Paula said afterward.
Duke is now safe, but sore, and chilling in the air conditioning at his hotel.
Sedona is a beautiful place to hike with your pup, but be mindful, the beauty of our clear skies and bright sun can also be deadly. Plan your route carefully, bring plenty of water, and hike with your dog(s) early in the day or late in the afternoon when the sun has begun its journey toward the horizon and the temperature cools. Don’t take a chance on being caught in the mid-day heat like Duke and his family were.
An afterthought: The Sedona Independent Humane Trappers are a volunteer organization who depend on donations from folks like you and me to pay for gas, treats, flyers, etc. They also need to purchase stretchers made exclusively for transporting disabled dogs like Duke. Any amount would be appreciated. If you’re interested, please visit their GoFundMe page, https://www.gofundme.com/f/lost-pet-trappers-sedona-flagstaff-verde-valley?utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_source=customer