Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Canyon Puppy Rescue

Puppy Abandoned at the Bottom of a Slot Canyon near Page, AZ

Photo Credit:

 Images like the top one are hard to look at, but this was the emaciated puppy that a canyoneer found at the bottom of a 350' slot canyon not far from my home in Page Arizona. How the puppy got there is a mystery. How the puppy got out is not a mystery but fascinating as well. When lone hiker Zak Anderegg found the pup, it was largely unresponsive due to extreme dehydration and malnutrition. How he got down there is anyone's guess. If he had been washed down or fallen in, it seems likely that he would have had broken bones. He did not, leading Zak to conclude that it was almost certainly a case of someone intentionally leaving it there to die. However it arrived, Zak decided he could not leave it there. Aware that the lab mix pup had only a slim chance at survival, he gave it what water he had, hiked out, got wet dog food and water, and returned. He left the dog with food and water and began planning his very difficult and dangerous rescue of the puppy.

The next day he returned with a pet carrier and repelled into the canyon to retrieve the nearly lifeless animal. This took a lot of effort and bravery on his part. He brought the puppy into Page where he left it in the capable hands of Dr. Roundtree and the staff at Page Animal Adoption Agency. There they worked round the clock to save the little dog, and that is where the above photo was taken. Incredibly, the puppy lived. Zak and his wife took him in, and he is now a grown, healthy family pet named Riley. The second picture above is, believe it or not, the same dog. He has flourished under the Anderegg's loving care. He attained minor fame and was featured on the Today Show, Ellen, and other media.

I first saw his story on Zak shot video of the rescue, and has since written a book weaving the story of Riley's rescue in with his own struggles as a child who suffered at the hands of cruel bullies. When I saw the video, I was moved to tears at the pathetic condition of the puppy. There is a scene where Riley can't even lift his head or respond and I thought to myself, "If I found that puppy, would I have rescued it? Or would I have thought that it was very sad but beyond rescue?" I certainly wouldn't have had the technical skills to climb out of the canyon with a pet carrier strapped to my back.

I knew what technical skill I did have, and that was the ability to draw. I used the internet to track down the owners, who live in Salt Lake City, UT and emailed them my offer to give them a portrait of Riley as he appears today. I was honored to use my time and talent to give them a gift as a thank you for what they did. What made this rescue particularly touching was the effort Zak spent to save the puppy, who looked as if it was almost certainly going to die despite his daring and very difficult rescue repel. My hope is that this gift captures Riley’s happy, resilient spirit and will bring them joy for years to come. They deserve a lot of joy for their generous, compassionate act. More information about the daring rescue and book are available at
Abandoned Puppy Drawing
"Riley" Charcoal Drawing by Kate Sumners

Me in my studio holding the portrait of the rescued canyon puppy