A dog and its owners were airlifted early Sunday morning after Baxter the dog was too sore and tired to make the five mile hike back from the Bridge To Nowhere Trail.
At about 10:30 p.m. Saturday, San Dimas Sheriff's deputies received a report of a San Diego couple who had not returned from a hike with their dog. They did not have overnight clothing or supplies, as they had only anticiated a day hike.
The San Dimas Sheriff's Mountain Rescue Team and deputies with the San Dimas Sheriff's Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department formed a rescue team and hiked out in the dark to search for the couple and their dog.
Due to the terrain and especially because it was now dark, the rescuers had a difficult hike and several rescuers suffered minor injuries.
The rescuers reached the couple and their dog about five miles from the starting point of the missing persons hike, located along the Bridge To Nowhere Trail, just above Allison Gulch in the Angeles National Forest north of San Dimas.
The couple was healthy but cold, so the sheriff's rescuers loaned them their jackets. The reason why they had not hiked back out was because Baxter was dog tired and unable to walk any more after the five mile hike, and his paw pads were sore and injured from walking on the rocky terrain. The couple explained that they often go for one mile or so hikes back near their home in San Diego, but apparently the dirt Baxter had walked on did not prepare it for the rougher and often rocky terrain on the Bridge to Nowhere Trail.
The couple could not carry out 80 pound Baxter, a labrador mix, so they decided to stay with him rather than leave him behind. They found a soft, sandy area and some tree leaves and laid down in that area, trying to stay warm and wait for rescue and daylight.
Sheriff's Search & Rescue team members considered carrying Baxter out in a rescue litter they had carried for five miles with them, but realized that the injuries incurred by the rescuers, combined with the size of the dog, kept this from being an option.
A Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter was able to respond, so the ground rescue team prepared Baxter to be airlifted.
Baxter was shown the litter that had a blanket in it, and he willingly climbed in and settled comfortably onto the blanket. He was covered and made warm, then secured with the safety harness. He seemed quite content.
As the Fire Department helicopter came closer to the rescue area, Baxter changed his mind. The helicopter noise and rotor wash (wind and dust created by the helicopter rotor blades) got his attention. He was afraid and started to panic.
"Baxter did not like the sound of that helicopter closing in. He struggled free from the safety restraints and made it clear he was not going to get back in," said Sheriff's San Dimas Mountain Rescue team Deputy David Little. "When we rescue people, nearly all are nervous about the safety litter and being hoisted into the helicopter. But we talk to them and explain what will happen to help calm their nerves. But it's tough to explain a helicopter to a dog."
Rather than hoist Baxter into the helicopter, the Fire Department pilots ultimately found a place to land and had to shut down the helicopter. The owners and deputies were then able to coax the enhausted, sore and stressed Baxter into the helicopter at about 7 a.m. The owners and Baxter were then flown to the command post, and were able to return home.
The eight Search and Rescue teams of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department average about 350 search and rescue missions every year, making it one of the most active counties for search and rescue missions in the nation.