Rescue Teams Reunite Family

After being rescued Onyx enthusiastically greets one family member as another looks on while a search and rescue member holds onto his leash and Yoda checks out the celebration.
Photos by Mary O’KEEFE


Montrose Search and Rescue team members never know what they may be facing or who they may be saving when they get a call for help, but it doesn’t matter; a rescue is a rescue – even if the lost victim is a four-legged member of the family.

On Tuesday about 4 p.m. a call came into the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station concerning a hiker who had fallen off a path and down the side of a mountain on Big Tujunga Canyon Road. Fortunately he was able to make it to a nearby house.

The hiker told the resident that he was walking his two dogs, Onyx and Yoda, along the path when he fell. The hiker and Yoda made it out but Onyx was still lost and possibly injured.

“Then he passed out,” the resident said.

Search and Rescue team members gather after rescuing Onyx.

The hiker was taken to the hospital where he was recovering when Montrose Search and Rescue (MSAR) team members began searching for Onyx. The team had heard Onyx and knew he was near the cliff where the hiker and dogs had fallen. But as nightfall approached it became too dark to search for the German shepherd so the team planned to return the next morning.

After leaving a family member at the hospital with the injured hiker, other members of the family came to Big Tujunga Canyon Road where the dog had been last seen. The family stayed at the location overnight just to be near.

Onyx appeared to be on the other side of the mountain. “We heard him barking at about 11 [p.m.],” said a family member.

They were worried about coyotes or mountain lions and didn’t really know what they would do if they heard any threats to Onyx but wanted to be nearby to help … just in case.

Onyx is a two-year old German shepherd and, according to his owners, he is very smart but they were afraid for him being alone on the side of a mountain.

Steve Goldsworthy was operations leader of the rescue. Early on Wednesday morning MSAR team members were joined by members of Sierra Madre and Santa Clarita Search and Rescue teams. USA Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. air support Air Rescue 5 and Unmanned Aircraft Systems also responded to the early morning incident.

Team members climbed up the steep path to the ridge where they last saw Onyx. But once they were able to look over the rim they discovered the dog was no longer there.

There was a lot of brush and other vegetation, which made it difficult to see down the side of the cliff. Air 5 flew overhead and was able to locate the dog, which was about 100 feet over the side on a narrow plateau.

“He is moving,” was heard over the radio.

The family members, who were nervously awaiting any word about the pet, finally took a deep breath. They still didn’t know if Onyx was hurt but were optimistic to hear that he was located and moving around.

There were plans of action discussed by team members dependent on where Onyx was located. Options included having a flight member of Air 5 lowered down to the dog then bring him up to the helicopter; another had team members rappel, or lower, over the cliff. Due to wind conditions and the location of Onyx, the latter plan was chosen.

Search and Rescue team members used “dirt pickets” along the cliff side and members were lowered down the 100 feet to where Onyx was located.

Team members had taken snacks for Onyx with them – he liked fruit – along with a muzzle and a strong harness. If he was injured they were concerned he would not be too friendly with strangers grabbing him off the cliff.

Members continued down the cliff and Onyx seemed to be ready and willing to be rescued. After reaching him they lowered him another 200 feet down to the ground. They had a litter ready to use but Onyx was not having any of that; he had hiked up the path and he was going to hike back.

The team members then walked him out of the brush to the cheers and tears of the family.

“I can’t believe this,” said one family member.

“We so appreciate what these [search and rescue members] were willing to do,” said another family member.

The reunion was full of tears, laughter and barks. Onyx was dirty but didn’t appear hurt.

“You are our heroes,” said a family member who had been at the location overnight.

The dog was reunited with his brother, Yoda, who was not really sure what all the cheering was about but seemed to take it all in stride.

It was a good day, especially for one Sierra Madre Search and Rescue team member who was celebrating his birthday. He celebrated by reuniting these pet parents with their loved one.