• 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

  • Lifestyle

    Denali Park bear incidents leave one injured, close trails and parking lots

    by Megan Edge on Jun 24, 21:16

    Two bear incidents at Denali National Park this week have led park officials to close parking lots and trails. According to a park release, a small, subadult brown bear charged vehicles by the Primrose area and charged visitors near the Savage River in the Denali Park Road area. Then, on Wednesday, the same bear charged […]

  • Politics

    Judge denies attempt to prolong Medicaid legislation

    by Associated Press on Jun 24, 20:27

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – A state judge has denied an attempt to prolong litigation challenging Gov. Bill Walker’s authority to unilaterally expand Medicaid. The Friday action stems from a lawsuit filed by the Alaska Legislative Council against Walker last summer. The case was dismissed by a state court judge in March. The Alaska House subsequently […]

  • News

    Alaska Zoo welcomes new male wolverine

    by Heather Hintze on Jun 24, 20:20

    The Alaska Zoo, in Anchorage, welcomed a new male wolverine earlier this week. Jumbo arrived from Sweden on Wednesday. The 3-year-old male is on exhibit, but is quarantined from his partner Olga for the next few weeks. Olga came from a zoo in Russia last fall. Zookeeper Kora Isakson said the goal is to hopefully […]

  • News

    Veteran advocate takes last ride, laid to rest at Fort Richardson National Cemetery

    by Shannon Ballard on Jun 24, 20:12

    An iconic figure in Alaska’s military and motorcycle communities was remembered for his life of service. Fred “Bulldog” Becker IV dedicated much of his life to advocating for veterans on behalf of the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association and other groups. Becker passed away on June 11. He was 73 years old. Friends and family say […]

  • News

    Brown bear spotted near South Anchorage Neighborhood

    by Lauren Maxwell on Jun 24, 19:36

    Some people who live in a South Anchorage neighborhood are worried about a brown bear that’s been spotted near by. Deborah Baines owns The Learning Farm on Gander Drive, not far from Lake Otis and Huffman. She runs a day camp at the farm, and said on any given day, it’s filled with animals and […]

  • Sports

    Chugiak’s Alev Kelter taking a unique route to Olympics

    by Jake Edmonds on Jun 24, 19:12

    Last updated at 8:30 p.m. Friday, June 24 Alev Kelter is weeks away from joining Team USA Rugby in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She always dreamed of representing her country at the games, but this was not what she had in mind. After graduating from Chugiak High School in 2009, […]

  • News

    Company applies to be Juneau’s first pot-testing laboratory

    by Associated Press on Jun 24, 18:28

    JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – A Juneau company has applied to be the first marijuana testing business in Alaska’s capital. The Juneau Empire (http://bit.ly/28WfumQ) reports Southeast Alaska Laboratories LLC has applied for a city conditional use permit and a state marijuana establishment license. Glacier Analytics, another potential testing lab, plans to turn in permitting paperwork next […]

  • News

    One killed in Hoonah vehicle crash

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jun 24, 16:49

    Alaska State Troopers say they’re investigating a deadly vehicle crash in Hoonah that killed one Friday morning. The overturned vehicle was found on Long Island Road, troopers wrote in an online dispatch. Another adult involved in the incident was taken to Juneau for medical treatment, the agency said. The names of the injured and the deceased are […]