• 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

  • Politics

    Gov. Walker to attend Trump inauguration

    by Liz Raines on Jan 18, 20:55

    Gov. Bill Walker will be among the governors in attendance at the presidential inauguration on Friday. The Republican-turned-Independent did not make public his support for candidates in the 2016 presidential campaign. Katie Marquette, spokesperson for Walker, said that as an Independent governor, Walker is committed to working with any presidential administration for the good of […]

  • News

    Bethel police: Napaskiak man dies from injuries sustained in snowmobile crash

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 18, 20:13

    A Napaskiak man died after a snowmobile crash on Friday morning, Bethel police report. The Bethel Police Department announced the death of 28-year-old James Joekay Jr. in a Facebook post about the crash. BPD and the local fire department responded to a report about the crash around 8:30 a.m., police wrote. They found Joekay with his snowmobile […]

  • Weather

    Temperatures drop to record levels, school canceled

    by Melissa Frey on Jan 18, 20:11

    As temperatures dropped Wednesday, new records were set in Alaska. Most of the Interior dropped to 50 to 60 below zero, including McGrath, which saw some of the coldest temperatures in five years. The official thermometer dropped to 53 degrees below zero, cold enough to cancel school. The principal of the school said 50 below […]

  • Lifestyle

    Providence hospital first in Alaska to install NICU webcams

    by Lauren Maxwell on Jan 18, 19:40

    Parents who’ve had a baby spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of a hospital often say how difficult it is to be separated from their child, even for a short period of time. That’s one of the reasons Providence Alaska Medical Center has become the first hospital in the state to install live-streaming […]

  • News

    Maintenance crews dig out thousands of hydrants after snowstorm

    by Heather Hintze on Jan 18, 19:08

    Maintenance crews are digging out thousands of fire hydrants after the weekend snowstorm. Alaska Water and Wastewater Utility (AWWU) is responsible for clearing about 7,400 hydrants around the Anchorage Bowl. Journeyman Marshall Kennon said he can shovel out up to 50 hydrants a day. That involves clearing a 6-foot diameter around the hydrant, then checking […]

  • Politics

    Watch Live: Gov. Walker gives 2017 State of the State address

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 18, 18:40

      State of the State Address Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. Watch live coverage of Gov. Bill Walker’s remarks from the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau. (Video will begin shortly before 7 p.m.) Web stream provided by 360 North/Gavel Alaska.  

  • Sports

    Grades cost 2 UAA Seawolves the rest of the women’s basketball season

    by Dave Leval on Jan 18, 18:23

    The University of Alaska Anchorage women’s basketball team is in Seattle. However, two players did not make the trip with the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) leaders who will play at rival Seattle Pacific University Thursday. Their seasons are done. Junior guard Kaitlyn Hurley and junior forward Dominique Thomas have been declared academically ineligible by the […]

  • Grunwald case suspect now faces federal child porn charges

    by Shannon Ballard on Jan 18, 17:00

    Devin Peterson’s long list of child pornography-related charges has grown to include two federal charges. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because the 18-year-old is one of the five Valley teens arrested in connection with David Grunwald’s murder. Alaska State Troopers seized Peterson’s phone during that investigation and found a disturbing video that could send […]