Mountain Rescue: Saving a Dog with Deuter Packs

Joan Maguire is the winning guest contributor for July. After assisting in the daunting rescue of an injured, 70-pound trail dog and writing in to tell us about it, she's the proud new owner of an AC Aera 22 SL.

I wanted to tell you about an adventure that we had yesterday while hiking Wasootch Ridge, Alberta, Canada, that illustrates how amazingly strong your backpacks are!

I was hiking with three friends -- Denise Hartley, Laura Coggles and Venetia Whiting -- and we were on our way back down when we came across a young man, Chris Dittrick, and his dog, Leila. We met them earlier on our way up the ridge, and at that time Leila was happily bounding about and greeting everyone with much enthusiasm.

She was now completely different -- she was trembling and not at all happy. There was blood on Chris's shorts, and I asked him if he was okay. He told us that the blood was from Leila's paws as they were all cut up from the rocks. She was no longer willing or able to walk and so he was trying to carry her down, but it was difficult. We were about six kilometers from the parking lot, so it became obvious that he would not be able to get her down without help.

At first we thought it would be better if he carried her across his shoulders and one of us would take his backpack. Another group passed us on their way up and they helped lift Leila onto his shoulders. She weighs about 70 pounds. But when the terrain became too rocky and exposed, we felt that it was too dangerous to continue this way.

We brainstormed on how we could create a sling or stretcher with the gear we had with us -- one possibility was some sort of sling using our jackets, but we couldn't make that work effectively.

We then decided to try a backpack, and Chris had one that was a decent size -- a Deuter pack. We placed Leila's front legs through the shoulder straps, and used them and the hip belt as handles. This worked okay but her body was too long, so we used a second pack (also a Deuter pack) for her rear end, placing the bottoms of the packs together. That way her back legs were supported through the shoulder straps, making a better stretcher to carry her on. After a bit of tweaking as we progressed, this worked well.

A couple of ladies joined us and took turns, and later the group that helped lift Leila caught up with us and provided some welcome relief.


The descent was challenging, and we had to stop for rests along the way. It took close to six hours to get her off the mountain, but she was a trooper and didn't fuss or try to get out, and she still had the fortitude to snap at flies that came close to her head!

We all remarked on how well the backpacks stood up to being used in a completely different way from what they were designed for, plus providing a comfortable stretcher for our canine patient. The second pack we used belonged to Laura, and she reported last night that it wasn't stretched or any worse for wear, which is awesome.

Somehow it seemed very fitting to have this mini adventure on Canada Day. What better way to celebrate what this country is all about than having a group of strangers band together to help out another!

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