SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Rescue teams are urging dog owners to think twice before taking their pets on difficult hikes, as the number of dog-related rescue calls surges this summer.
Summit County Rescue Group responded to back-to-back rescues involving dogs on Quandry Peak last week. Both were large dogs that had to be carried off the mountain. The dogs experienced exhaustion and torn paw pads on the way back down, near tree line.
“The dog will follow you as long as he or she possibly can, until they literally fall over from exhaustion. They just lie down and say I cannot take another step,” said Charles Pitman, Mission Coordinator with Summit County Rescue Group.
Pitman says the team has responded to at least three rescue calls involving dogs so far this year. He says they’ve gone several years without any dog-related calls.
He believes the increase could be caused by more people recreating outdoors, bringing more dogs to the high country, as well.
“People need to take a long, hard look at whether the trail they’re hiking is really appropriate to take their pet on. It is really sad to see these dogs in that state,” said Pitman.
Pitman says the focus for search and rescue teams is to rescue people–not dogs. Getting calls for rescue involving dogs often puts their team members in tough positions.
Brad Hodge, a regular on Colorado’s 14ers, says he’s noticed an increase in people bringing their dogs on these challenging hikes.
“Everyone is posting their awesome photos of their animals up on technical terrain and they’re in it for the ‘like’ button, unfortunately,” said Hodge.
Hodge recently encountered a dog on Mount Harvard, barking and in distress after its owner went ahead on the difficult trail.
“It kind of took me by surprise because I was like you’re out here with your companion, you should help it through these obstacles,” said Hodge.
Rescue crews recommend building up your dog’s endurance before taking them on a challenging hike. Signs of trouble could include change in gum or tongue color, as well as excessive panting or drooling.