Utah teen hikers assist in dog rescue, carry him to safety

Jul 18, 2023, 8:30 AM | Updated: 1:13 pm

Young men carry injured dog, Otis, on a makeshift stretcher on the Island Lake trail in Summit Coun...

Young men carry injured dog, Otis, on a makeshift stretcher on the Island Lake trail in Summit County.

ISLAND LAKE — Teen hikers assisted a man and his son in a dog rescue on Saturday. The man’s pet was injured during a hike, but was brought to safety. 

An 80-pound dog lay in the makeshift stretcher, panting as 17 boys carried him over 4 miles down the Island Lake Trail in Summit County on Saturday.

Brett Peterson, a Salt Lake City native, was backpacking with his 17-year-old son and his dog Otis when his dog suddenly collapsed. After further examination, Peterson noticed Otis’ paws were bloodied and that his paw’s pads were so badly torn, he couldn’t move.

After carrying Otis to the tent and sleeping the night, he noticed his dog couldn’t even walk outside of the tent.

“I was freaking out. I’m like, ‘How are we gonna get this dog out of here?'” Peterson said.

That morning, Peterson met with another camping group, who gave him a tarp and some zip ties to try to carry his dog down — but Peterson doubted he and his son could manage the trek because his dog weighs 80 pounds. 

“I wasn’t gonna just leave him, you know? We just didn’t know what else to do. It was just me and my son, and for us to try to carry him out with our backpacks and everything, it just would have been — it would have been horrible,” Peterson said.

Then he found help

That’s when he ran into Jeff Eaves and his Young Men’s group, who were hiking together as an activity for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“We just woke up, and his (the dog’s) owner was in our campsite, and he’s like, ‘Hey, my dog got hurt. Do you want to help? Can you please help us carry it down?'” said Kye Klinger, a 13-year-old who was in the group.

Instantly, Kyle said, he and the other boys went to work, taking parts of two dead trees and zip-tying them to the tarp, making a stretcher for the dog.

For the next several hours, Eaves, Klinger, and the rest of their Young Men’s group — who were between the ages of 11 and 14 — carried the dog up some of the most difficult parts of the trail, Eaves said.

“It took hours, and it was super tiring because we had our backpacks on, and the boys just had to keep rotating,” Eaves added, noting that about four to five boys would carry the stretcher at a time, and when one would get tired, another boy would take his place.

Blaine Robertson, a 14-year-old who also helped, added that it “was really hard carrying it the whole way.”

“We all ran out of water, pretty close to the end — and we had to fill up and take a big break because we are also tired, and we had to rotate a lot because everyone was a part of it,” Blaine said. “It’s good to have a lot of teamwork.”

None of the boys complained about the heat, exhaustion, or the difficulty of carrying the dog, Eaves said.

“It’s really easy with this group that we have because we’re so open and we don’t really think about ourselves — like, we were just thinking about the dog. We were just getting through it together,” Blaine added.

The entire time, Otis was “being treated like Cleopatra,” Peterson said with a laugh.

“It was amazing because if they weren’t there, I don’t know, I may still be stuck up there,” Peterson said.

Blaine said he knew the dog was in pain. He also knew that without his help, Peterson and his son might’ve still been stuck hiking in the extreme heat. He said that gave him extra motivation to help Otis. 

Facing exhaustion 

About halfway through their journey, the boys themselves needed assistance to carry the dog the next 2 miles. Reid Freeman and two other adult leaders showed up to help. They had hiked ahead and then backtracked to assist the group.

“They started out pretty strong (but) they didn’t have any water at one point and stopped, and everyone was tired,” Freeman said. “And then once the reinforcements came, it really helped them, and we went faster.”

Seeing the joy and relief on their faces also helped Freeman have more energy, he added, noting that he “could carry more and help them.”

Successful dog rescue

When the boys finished the rest of the hike, they put Otis beside Peterson’s car, where he would rest until Peterson himself caught up and took care of his dog, Eaves said.

Despite the exhaustion, Kyle said that he was “grateful that we got a chance to help.”

To avoid future catastrophes, Blaine emphasized the importance of hikers vocalizing their concerns and difficulties — whether that be having an injured dog or suffering from dehydration.

“If the hikers are vocal on the trail with each other, like if they’re having a problem, I’m sure people will help out,” Blaine said.

Eaves agreed, noting that it wasn’t just the boys who helped, as another group had provided the tarp and zip ties, and another hiker had given them pain medication for the dog.

“A lot of people were super friendly and, you know, just trying to look out for each other, so it was really cool,” Eaves said.

Ultimately, the boys “didn’t ask for anything” in return for their favor, Peterson noted.

“These boys had their own burdens that they were carrying, which were their backpacks. They were willing to carry another person’s burden, even though the path was rocky, steep, and difficult. The boys didn’t stop helping when it got difficult and physically exhausting,” Eaves said. “They never complained; they just kept going and giving their best. I was super proud of them.”

Related: Dog Kennel in Salt Lake County is at full capacity

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Utah teen hikers assist in dog rescue, carry him to safety