Treasures of the Valley » Mike LAWLER

Montrose Search and Rescue – Dog Rescues Part 1


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Montrose Search and Rescue team locating and rescuing a lost dog in Brand Park. While the majority of the MSAR team’s efforts are focused on human rescues, they do honor the fact that many dog owners consider their pets as “one of the family.” The MSAR team rescues about a half-dozen dogs each year. The following are a sampling of some of those rescues.

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical Society
of the Crescenta Valley and loves local history. Reach him at

In the winter of 1992 the MSAR team was on a routine snow rescue training exercise up at Krakta Ridge in the Angeles National Forest. Near their exercise area, a golden retriever puppy playing in the new snow got too close to the edge of a ravine and slid one thousand feet down an icy slope. The team linked together their rescue ropes and lowered a team member down to the puppy. The uninjured and grateful puppy was placed in a backpack and pulled back up.

In 1976, a hiker watched in horror as his small dog slipped off the edge of a steep trail in Big Tujunga Canyon. The dog stopped sliding about 75 feet down. After several abortive attempts to reach him, the hiker drove to a ranger station, and he and the ranger attempted another failed rescue. The MSAR team was finally called and, with no trouble at all, reached the dog, placed him in a sling and brought him back up. At the top, the grateful dog walked up to each MSAR team member and thanked him with a wag of his tail.

A not-so-grateful dog was rescued with his owner after a 250-foot tumble off the edge of the Angeles Crest Highway just above La Cañada. Just before nightfall, the dog slipped on the edge and began sliding down. His owner grabbed for him, lost his balance and tumbled past his dog, stopping at about 35 feet. He looked up just in time to see his dog rolling down the slope towards him. As the dog went by, he grabbed him, but the big dog’s momentum pulled them both rolling and tumbling another 200 feet. The dog was uninjured, but the owner’s hip was dislocated and he was unable to climb. As darkness fell and the cold came on, the protective dog snuggled to provide warmth to his injured owner. Finally, at 11:30 p.m. a passing motorist who had pulled off the road heard the man’s calls for help.

MSAR members winched a rescue team down the steep hill. It was at this point that the confused and traumatized dog decided to go into protection mode and he wouldn’t let the team near his owner. After some careful jockeying around, the injured owner was finally able to get his faithful dog leashed and subdued. The injured man was strapped to a stretcher and, holding his dog, he was winched back up the steep slope.

A man, Chuck, took his two German shepherds down into the narrows area of Big Tujunga Canyon for a play-day by the river. The playful dogs got farther down the canyon than Chuck was comfortable with, but when he called them back, the rambunctious dogs got caught in the river’s strong current and swept downstream. They fetched up on a ledge of rock in the center of the stream just above a waterfall where they were trapped. Chuck followed them down and tried to get them off the rock.

“I was constantly going under and trying to hold the dogs up. I saw their claws bleeding. [The stream] was deep in both directions. They couldn’t go anywhere else.”

After six hours of trying to retrieve his dogs, darkness began to fall and Chuck went for help, leaving his dogs behind. “I cried all the way up,” Chuck said later.

Battered, wet and cold, he stumbled into the Hidden Springs Café where the call went out to the MSAR. After a three-hour hike, the dogs were pulled off the ledge and returned to Chuck.

“I didn’t know they did they did things like that,” said a grateful Chuck.

We’re glad, and grateful, that they do.