• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 3s

Man says he owes his dog his life

By KTVA Alaska 8:12 PM March 4, 2014

Otis Orth took his dog for a snowmachine ride in Trapper Creek when a shallow patch of ice threw him from his machine

ANCHORAGE - It’s commonly said that a dog is a man’s best friend, but one Alaska man’s dog has proven to be much more after refusing to leave side of its owner after a snowmachine accident.

Otis Orth, 52, is recovering at Providence Alaska Medical Center after spending 28 hours injured and freezing on a rural Alaska trail.

Orth’s face is covered with snow burn, he can’t move his arm or neck and his foot, while no longer blackened by frostbite, is still at risk of amputation. Yet, Orth says he’s thank thankful in his hospital bed.

“I owe that dog my life,” Orth said.

That dog that Orth says saved his life is his golden retriever named Amber.

He took Amber along for a snowmachine ride in Trapper Creek on Sunday afternoon, he says, when a shallow patch of ice threw him from his machine.

“I’m just kind of sliding across this really hard pack snow, starts out 15, 20 feet on my face then the rest of it is like being in a dryer,” Orth recalls.

Orth was left injured and unable to move. Hours passed, night began to fall and Orth’s backcountry know-how kicked in.

“When you get hypothermia you have a tendency to think you’re warm and lay down and go to sleep and once you do that you’re done for,” Orth said. “That night I laid there and watched shooting stars, the big dipper and satellites zooming across. There wasn’t much I could do that night but stay warm.”

Alaska State Troopers Search and Rescue Coordinator Lt. Steven Adams says everyone that ventures into Alaska’s rural areas should always prepare for the worst.

“Everybody venturing out into the woods should be prepared to spend at least one night,” Adams said. ”We have a good network of search and rescue in the state … because the state is so immense it takes a lot of time to find people.”

Adams says necessities like, ”warm clothing, food, water, some sort of communication device, some sort of signaling device,” can mean the difference between life and death. Orth had none of those things. But he did have Amber who kept Orth warm enough to make it to the next morning, in spite of temperatures reaching 14 below freezing.

“She’s laying right there with me with her head in her paws on my stomach and her belly turned in towards my right arm there,” Orth said. ”I could feel her body heat and we were both shivering.”

When Monday afternoon rolled around, the distant sound of snow machines offered Orth a sliver of hope. Still immobile, Orth sent his 2-year-old rescue dog Amber toward the noise to begin his own rescue.

“I got her all hyped up and sent her out there. I said, ‘Go get ‘em, go see what they’re doing,’” Orth said. “I sent the dog back over there and I heard one of the brothers tell the other one, ‘There’s something wrong. That dog’s not following us it’s trying to get us to follow her.’”

Sure enough, two men on snowmachines, guided by Amber, found Orth in the same frozen spot he’d spent the last 26 hours.

“I owe that dog my life,” he said. “If I had to stay there one more night I wouldn’t have made it. At the time, I couldn’t let myself think that. It was there in the back of my mind but you still gotta do what you can.”

Doctors say Orth is expected to make a full recovery, but could still lose a toe or two to frostbite.

The Department of Public Safety is offering free backcountry safety awareness classes from now until June 1.

Latest Stories

  • News

    SmallBizSat: Anchorage business boasts local expertise as key to compete

    by Liz Raines on Nov 28, 19:01

    On Small Business Saturday, locally owned Skinny Raven Sports says it saw a big boost from last year’s sales. “There’s been a lot of feet through the door, which is awesome,” said general manager Ben Stolpman. “It shows that people value small business.” Despite the fact that you can find almost all of the products […]

  • Sports

    At Great AK Shootout, Wiggs lifts Seawolves to 71-65 win over Drexel

    by Jake Edmonds on Nov 28, 14:08

    The University of Alaska Anchorage men’s basketball team earned a second round win in the GCI Great Alaska Shootout Friday, defeating Drexel 71-65. The Seawolves were led by the junior stand-out Suki Wiggs, who had 33 points in the win. Wiggs is proving to be a huge asset for head coach Rusty Osbourne and the […]

  • News

    In Fairbanks, borough suspends ride share payments after no one signs up

    by Associated Press on Nov 28, 12:25

    Residents aren’t getting on board with ride sharing in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (http://bit.ly/1YzWBoS) borough officials and Enterprise Holdings have agreed to suspend payments for a program that no one has signed up for since the company was hired in September 2014. Borough transportation manager Adam Barth says he […]

  • Crime

    Anchorage police seek wanted man, Dajon Hale

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 28, 11:58

    The Anchorage Police Department is asking for the public’s help finding 26-year-old Dajon Hale, who currently has two felony warrants for his arrest. Police say in June, Hale was pulled over for speeding in a construction zone in the area of E. 56th Avenue and Lake Otis Parkway. The officer then discovered Hale was on probation […]

  • News

    Red Cross of Alaska speaks out for Giving Tuesday

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 27, 22:48

    After Thanksgiving, shoppers have a number of opportunities to save big: first there’s Black Friday, then Small Business Saturday and finally, Cyber Monday. Many use the sales in stores and online as a chance to get deals on Christmas presents for their loved ones, but the Red Cross of Alaska says Giving Tuesday is another […]

  • News

    Thousands turn out for Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony in Downtown Anchorage

    by Daniella Rivera on Nov 27, 22:37

    Friday night, thousands packed Town Square Park for the annual AT&T Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony, marking the official start of the holiday season in Anchorage. Alaskans enjoyed free hot cocoa and cookies, kids got to meet Santa Claus and his reindeer, and Alaskans gave back through donations to Toys for Tots. Live music was provided by […]

  • News

    Eagle River women turn to Kickstarter to fund indoor dog park

    by Bonney Bowman on Nov 27, 20:42

    Thousands of Alaskan dog owners know around this time of year it can be tough to get your dog enough exercise. Whether it’s cold and icy or wet and muddy, conditions aren’t always ideal for a long walk. That’s what inspired Alyssa Oehmke and Melanie Wallace to found the Alaska Canine Club, an indoor dog park. […]

  • News

    Locally-owned Anchorage stores brace for ‘Small Business Saturday’

    by Liz Raines on Nov 27, 18:18

    Although Black Friday had a low turnout in Anchorage this year, many local businesses say they’re banking on Saturday sales. “‘Small Business Saturday’ is always the big push, people come out in full force which is awesome, we appreciate that, completely,” said Annie Ciszak Pazar, owner of Bella Boutique in Spenard. “You know they call […]