• 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

    Students make ‘mountain of sandwiches’ for Anchorage’s homeless

    by Heather Hintze on Jan 26, 18:00

    Students at Anchorage’s Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School are helping to feed Anchorage’s homeless community. Monday morning, the kids made a “mountain of sandwiches” that went to feed clients at the Brother Francis Shelter. Parents said the activity kicked off the school’s celebration of Catholic Schools Week. First- through -sixth-grade students formed assembly lines to turn out […]

  • News

    Crews work to restore heat and water to UAF buildings

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 26, 17:41

    Some University of Alaska Fairbanks buildings are without heat and water following line breaks, school officials report. The breaks happened within the utility corridors near the campus fire station along Yukon Drive around 4:30 a.m. Monday, says UAF spokeswoman Marmian Grimes. Repair crews were initially unable to reach the breaks. This was due to resulting […]

  • Crime

    Anchorage man sentenced to 17.5 years for sexual exploitation of a minor

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 26, 17:29

    An Anchorage man who pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a child was sentenced in federal court Thursday. Kevin Dale Callander, 45, was sentenced to 210 months — or 17.5 years — in prison on two counts of sexual exploitation. Additionally, Callander will serve a separate 12-year prison term for sexual abuse […]

  • News

    Pedestrian-involved crash, school bus crash temporarily close Muldoon Road

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 26, 17:12

    One lane of Muldoon Road was temporarily closed Monday afternoon following two vehicle accidents, with one crash resulting in a young boy having to be taken to the hospital. The first collision occurred around 3:30 p.m. near the intersection of Muldoon Road and Duben Avenue. According to a witness at the scene, a young boy was […]

  • News

    Alaska SeaLife Center cares for blind baby seal

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 26, 15:25

    The Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward is caring for a blind harbor seal rescued in Homer last year. Bryce, found at Land’s End, was the final seal pup rescue of 2014, according to a statement from the center. Because he is blind, he is considered non-releasable by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-National Marine Fisheries […]

  • Crime

    New Mexico man sentenced for attempted drug trafficking to Cordova

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 26, 13:52

    A New Mexico man has been sentenced for trying to smuggle drugs into Cordova in 2012. Enrique Lino was sentenced to 12 years in prison Friday on charges of second- and third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance. He was convicted in October of last year. Lino was arrested June 21, 2012, after the Alaska State […]

  • Crime

    14-year-old detained following Sunday night shooting, victim named

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 26, 12:46

    A 14-year-old is in custody after a shooting near the University Area Sunday evening – Anchorage’s first homicide of 2015, police say. According to witnesses, the victim, 18-year-old Charles Gustav Steinhilpert III, and the 14-year-old suspect planned to meet at a Walgreens, located at the intersection of Lake Otis Parkway and Tudor Road, for a drug deal, […]

  • Sports

    BLM to host ‘Women of the Iditarod’ Twitter chat

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 26, 12:16

    Students and fans will have the opportunity to talk to Iditarod mushers Wednesday during a live Twitter chat, according to the Alaska Bureau of Land Management. From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. AKST, people can live-tweet with 2015 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race competitors Lisbet Skogan Norris, Jodi Bailey, Dan Kaduce and rookie Heidi Sutter. Veterans Karin […]