• 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

  • Sports

    LSU fires head football coach Les Miles

    by Associated Press on Sep 25, 22:49

    Les Miles has finally been done in by one of the frantic finishes that came to define the Mad Hatter’s tenure at LSU. LSU fired Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on Sunday, and promoted defensive line coach Ed Orgeron to interim head coach. The moves came less than 24 hours after Miles briefly watched his […]

  • Sports

    Baseball mourns death of Marlins ace Jose Fernandez

    by CBS/AP on Sep 25, 22:42

    Miami Marlins players have gathered at the team’s ballpark to grieve together following the death of teammate Jose Fernandez. The 24-year-old pitcher and two of his friends were killed when their boat smashed into a jetty off Miami Beach early today. Authorities say the 32-foot boat was demolished when it hit the rocks at full speed. […]

  • News

    Mall victims include teen, probation officer, Boeing worker

    by Associated Press on Sep 25, 18:53

    Five people died in the shooting at a Macy’s store in a mall north of Seattle. Authorities do not plan to make their identities public until Tuesday, but details about three of the victims have been reported by Washington state media. Here’s what is known about them: ___ SARAI LARA: The 16-year-old high school sophomore […]

  • Lifestyle

    ‘Grass roots’ group works to make Hatcher Pass ski area a reality

    by Eric Ruble on Sep 25, 18:25

    At mile 10.6 of Hatcher Pass Road, one can see the birth of Alaska’s newest ski area. For decades, groups have tried to bring a ski area to the Valley. Now, one team of volunteers is hoping to make it a reality. “I have two little kids and I’m a big skier, and I would […]

  • News

    Charlotte mayor lifts curfew on the city after days of protests

    by CBS/AP on Sep 25, 18:12

    The mayor of Charlotte has lifted the curfew on the city after days of protests over the killing of a black man by police. There have been protests every day since 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott was shot to death by Charlotte police on Tuesday. In a statement Sunday evening, Mayor Jennifer Roberts says that effective immediately the […]

  • Sports

    Arnold Palmer dies at 87, made golf popular for masses

    by Associated Press on Sep 25, 17:46

    Arnold Palmer brought a country-club sport to the masses with a hard-charging style, charisma and a commoner’s touch. At ease with both presidents and the golfing public, and on a first-name basis with both, “The King,” died Sunday in Pittsburgh. He was 87. Alastair Johnson, CEO of Arnold Palmer Enterprises, confirmed that Palmer died Sunday […]

  • News

    Cedar Rapids residents evacuate homes ahead of flooding in Iowa

    by CBS/AP on Sep 25, 16:07

    Residents are leaving low-lying areas of Cedar Rapids, adhering to a request by authorities to clear out by 8 p.m. Sunday due to the risk of flooding from the rising Cedar River. The river crested Saturday night in Waterloo and Cedar Falls, which are about 55 miles upstream from Cedar Rapids, which is Iowa’s second-largest city, with about […]

  • News

    Family heirlooms “fill vast silences” at new African American museum

    by CBS News on Sep 25, 13:14

    At the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, thousands of great Americans are represented by priceless family heirlooms, donated to help them museum to share their experiences. Among them is the freedom paper donated by 83-year-old Elaine Thompson. It belonged to her great, great, great grandfather, Joseph Trammell of Loudon County, Virginia, reports […]