Meet the heroic dog who saved an injured and deaf hiker
People all over the world are reading about the incredible story of a Girdwood husky after a deaf hiker says the dog saved her life. Nanook's story first came to light last week. But, as it turns out, it’s not the first time he’s rescued someone in Alaska’s backcountry.
At first glance, Nanook looks like your typical husky. He’ll walk right up to you for a rub behind the ears and loves play fighting with his brother, a puffball of a Malamute name Argus. However, as is typical Husky behavior, Nanook, or “Nookie” for short, is always restless-- and his eyes continually darting to the trailhead that lies just a half mile from his home.
“I swear he just looks for cars that go by and runs up after them and goes on an adventure,” says Nanook’s owner, Scott Swift. “I just let him do his thing.”
Last week, that “thing” was more guardian angel than dog. Tennessee student Amelia Milling, 21, was hiking the trail when she slipped and fell 600 feet down a snow-covered mountain. Suddenly, Nanook appeared out of nowhere. He took her back to the trail, and a few miles later, when Amelia slipped trying to cross a river, Nanook jumped in and dragged her to shore.
“Nookie was nothing short of a modern-day Lassie hero,” Alaska State Trooper Lt. Eric Olsen said.
Lt. Olsen was among the team who responded to the report of an injured and hypothermic hiker. He was immediately worried when he didn’t see any movement in the sleeping bag as the team landed the helicopter. Then, he spotted a dog.
“Nookie has a true love for humans, and for what he does and he’s an incredible dog.”
Turns out Amelia is deaf and didn’t hear the chopper land. On a notebook, she recounted her harrowing tale of how the dog calmed her and never left her side. When troopers found out she had just met the Husky hours before, they were flabbergasted.
“It made everything much better. It was a very happy day for all of us; a day for us to rejoice and be happy and celebrate,” said the lieutenant.
Against protocol, the lieutenant personally delivered Nookie back to his owner, Scott Swift, who told Lt. Olsen that Nanook has a sixth sense when it comes to rescuing people in danger. He completes the 24-mile Crow Pass trail with strangers about 10 times a year. On his collar, Swift engraved the words Crow Pass Guide Dog, so his companions know he is there to make sure they reach the end safely. However, it wasn’t until recently that Swift learned that Nanook has been doing more than providing his companions canine company, and as it turns out, Amelia wasn’t the first person he rescued from danger.
“Three so far that I’ve heard about, and I kinda wouldn’t doubt if there’s more out there.”
Swift says Nookie has also saved another hiker – a little girl hiking Crow Pass Trail with her family-- from the same river crossing Amelia fell into. Then, just a few days ago, he got a phone call from a woman saying that Nookie saved her friend who was caught in an avalanche a few years ago.
Swift believes there’s more stories about there and it’s the reason that he started a Facebook page for Nookie. He wants to know if you’ve hiked with his dog, and in just a few days says he’s heard all kinds of stories from dozens of people.
The most striking part of Nookie’s story may be that we don’t know how it started. The Swift’s got him at an adopt-a-pet event in the Eagle River Walmart parking lot. The only thing they’re sure of is that the dog came from Bethel. A rescue dog, who it seems has now made it his mission to rescue others from the dangers lurking in Alaska’s backcountry-- a place he’s already eager to get back to.
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