Man Pulls a Reverse Lassie, Rescues Puppy From Canyon
By Reagan Alexander | Wednesday, July 7, 2010 11:58 AM ET
350 feet beneath the Earth’s surface, Zak Anderegg goes from vacationing canyoneer to dog’s best friend.
The slot canyons along the Arizona-Utah border often appear on the surface as nothing more than dark, jack-o-lantern grins carved into the landscape. What draws adventurers and lovers of the outdoors to these natural wonders is what lies beneath the surface, sandstone waves, arches and curls which are the work of centuries of wind and rushing water.
Like many that flock to these sites, Zak Anderegg was on vacation, and armed with a Flip camera he planned to take in all the subterranean wonders that these canyons had to offer. The overhangs, the rock formations, the alleys of darkness punctuated by sunlight that is bounced from wall to limestone wall until it has achieved an otherworldly glow … the abandoned puppy …?
Nearly 350 feet beneath the rim of the canyon Anderegg had one of those moments where, had he not been clinging to a rappelling rope and a video camera, he would have rubbed his eyes in disbelief. Right before him, shivering in a deep pothole in the rock was a small, black dog that seemed to be on the verge of starvation.
Anderegg pulled himself to the surface in order to get the animal food and water, but one horrific thought kept nudging aside his initial shock at finding a puppy where no dog should ever be. “Falling from the rim would have killed him.” He tells KSL.com. “Every single time I work it through my head, I come up with the same answer: Someone put him there.”
When his new discovery proved unable to eat or take in much water, Anderegg climbed back out and drove to a nearby town to report the incident and rally a rescue team. The Subterranean Samaritan quickly found out that “To Protect, and Serve” doesn’t extend to dogs left to die in the bowels of a canyon.
“They told me flat out, ‘We’re certainly not going to send out the fire department or the sheriff’s department to help you.’ Anderegg recalls with a measure of disbelief.
Faced with such monumental indifference, Anderegg pushed aside his visions of leading a rescue party and made the equally heroic and matter-of-fact decision to go it alone.
“Alright,” he said to himself. “I’ll manage on my own.”
The next morning, Anderegg was back at the canyon, this time armed with a borrowed cat carrier and what could best be described as a whole lot of determination mixed with the inklings of a plan. He dropped back into the darkness and was soon face to face with his new charge, who was in much worse condition than he had initially thought.
“He was completely starved.” Anderegg says, “He was, by my best guess, 24 to 48 hours from being dead.”
Luckily, “Puppy,” as he has since been dubbed, didn’t have to face those final hours. Zak Anderegg got the emaciated dog into the carrier, and somehow rigged up a system to stabilize the two during their ascent. Once back on the surface, Puppy, who seemed to have resigned himself to his fate, was rushed to the Page Animal Hospital where he was brought back from the brink of not only starvation, but of canine distemper as well, with most of the costs being covered by the hospital’s Angel Fund.
While Zak and his wife, Michelle, have fallen under the spell of their miracle pup, theirs is already a pet-rich home. Despite all that they have gone through with “Puppy,” they gave him that name so that they would ultimately never become too attached to a dog they know they cannot keep. Their ultimate goal is to find “Puppy” that forever home that is infinitely removed from the darkness of that lonely canyon.
To that end, “Puppy” has his own Facebook page, and the Andereggs are accepting donations for the dog’s remaining veterinary bills, while they vet potential suitors (all apologies for the horrific pun). But don’t give up on the prospect of that ribbon-wrapped happy ending, as Michelle admits that the bond between herself and the dog she has since nicknamed “Shadow” grows each day.
“We’re so attached,” she says, laughing. “I walk, and I stop, and he bumps into me. He comes everywhere with me.”
As for Zak, the one-man rescue party, he still hasn’t gotten over the initial shock of finding the dog in the first place. His lingering astonishment tinged with the same attitude that repeatedly sent him back down into a canyon to save a dog that everyone else had given up on.
“I cannot believe that I found this guy down in this frickin’ pothole in this canyon,” he says with a chuckle.
**”Puppy”, pictured above, is available for adoption!