Deaf hiker credits furry hero in harrowing tale
An adventurous Alaska Husky, who thankfully is also an avid hiker, is credited -- for the second time -- for saving a life.
In the early evening on Wednesday, Alaska State Troopers received word of an injured hiker along the Crow Creek Trail in Chugach State Park. The hiker was reported to be a young blonde woman who was hearing impaired, troopers said.
An AST helicopter, HELO 3, launched from Anchorage, piloted by Tab Burnett, who was accompanied by AST Lt. Eric Olsen.
Just before 7, the helicopter arrived at the headwaters of Eagle River, 26 miles east of Anchorage.
"All that could be seen from the air was a sleeping bag and a dog near the bank of the river, surrounded by snow-capped mountains," troopers wrote.
Inside the sleeping bag was 21-year-old Amelia Milling, who troopers say was wet, dazed and scraped up. The hearing impaired young woman then recounted her harrowing tale to troopers by writing in a notebook.
Her trekking poles broke during the first leg of her journey, she stated, leading her to fall about 300 feet down a snow-covered side of the mountain until she struck a boulder.
"The impact threw her about 30 feet sideways and sent her the rest of the way down the mountain, another 300 to 400 feet," troopers say.
That's where she met a white Alaska Husky. The dog led her back to the Crow Pass Trail, where she continued hiking with her new companion.
Milling reached the Eagle River crossing where she slipped and fell into the water due to a strong current. Milling says her life was saved by her new furry friend, who pulled her from the river.
Milling became hypothermic and activated her SPOT device for help, prompting the AST response.
She and the Husky were loaded into HELO 3 and began their trip back to Anchorage. That's when the rescue crew realized the dog was wearing a tag, which asked that the dog be returned to an address in Girdwood. A phone number was also listed.
Upon arrival in Anchorage, Milling was checked out by medical staff and was picked up by friends.
Meanwhile, Lt. Olsen called the phone number on the dog's tag. Scott Swift, 57, answered the phone and identified himself as the owner of the wandering white Husky-- whose name, Lt. Olsen learned, is Nookie.
"After everything Nookie had done for Milling, Lt. Olsen decided doggie jail wasn't an appropriate place for Nookie to be until he could be collected by his owner. Lt. Olsen loaded the furry hero into his vehicle and drove to Girdwood to bring Nookie home," troopers wrote.
Swift met Nookie and Lt. Olsen as they arrived at the Girdwood residence at the base of the Crow Pass Trail, where Swift told the lieutenant about other adventures the 7-year-old canine has experienced.
Nookie enjoys following hikers on the trail throughout the year, Swift said, hiking the Crow Pass Trail at least 10 times a summer with humans he wanders across.
"At one point, Swift said the family made a dog tag for Nookie that read, 'I love to ski, I love to play, please bring me home at the end of the day.' The tag was eventually lost and replaced with the current tags," troopers say.
Swift also said that Wednesday's encounter with Milling wasn't the first time Nookie had been hailed a hero. About two years ago, a family was hiking the Crow Pass Trail, and while attempting to cross the river, a little girl fell-- just as Milling had. Nookie was able to safely get ahold of the girl and bring her safely to shore.
"The family credited Nookie with saving the little girl from drowning," troopers said.
While Nookie and Milling's chance encounter came to a happy end, troopers say it also concluded what had been a daunting 24 hours for the crew of the HELO 3.
"The crew assisted with three separate search and rescue operations during that time. The first two ended in tragedy, with the people being found deceased. This last search and rescue provided the crew with the ability to bring someone home safely, along with a great story of an amazing dog."
"This is something you read about in books or novels, and we've met the real-life hero dog ourselves," Lt. Olsen said Friday. "Nookie has a true love for humans in what he does and he's an incredible dog."
"He's definitely getting a bag of bones from me," Lt. Olsen said.
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