As much as we all love dogs, we tend to underestimate them. They make great companions, sure, but can also independently leap into action when necessary thanks to a sharp sense of smell and a keen pair of eyes. In times of trouble, their loyalty can pay off in ways that even the biggest believers don’t see coming.
When disaster struck this Australian family, their beloved aging dog set off on his own to make things right. He was likely their best hope — in spite of barely being able to see the world around him…
Back in his salad days, Max could run around herds of cattle with the best of them. But even as the years passed by, and he lost his youthful vigor, the dog still had greatness in him. All he needed was the right moment to prove it.
In 2018, the Australian Cattle Dog — also known as a Blue Heeler — reached 17 years of age! It showed on him, too. Max had become partially blind and completely lost his hearing.
Gold Coast Bulletin
But that was okay; he still had a loving family. His favorite member was three-year-old Aurora, and he acted as her consummate companion and playmate. Max had watched over her since she was a newborn, after all.
Aurora lived happily with her grandmother Leisa and her uncle Jake, who took great care of Max as well. In their isolated area of Warwick, Queensland, they really only had each other to rely on.
While Jake and Leisa were busy working or doing chores around the house, Aurora liked to play in the yard. She never strayed far from the windows, so her older relatives didn’t worry about her being out by herself.
Besides, Max usually tagged along on Aurora’s outdoor adventures. Having lost a step or two in his advanced age, he often lagged a bit behind. The Blue Heeler never lost sight of the girl, however — until one April afternoon.
For whatever reason, Aurora wandered far beyond her usual circuit that day. Maybe she was chasing a bug through the tall grass, or simply made a wrong turn. Either way, she didn’t realize she’d gotten off track.
But when she finally took in her surroundings, Aurora understood exactly what kind of predicament she was in. Her house was nowhere in sight. She was utterly alone. With a gasping sob, the little girl collapsed to the unforgiving ground.
Not long after, Leisa noticed that Aurora wasn’t out in the yard. She must’ve come inside to play, the grandmother figured. However, the girl wasn’t in her room either. Holding back panic, Leisa notified the police.
Paul Matthew Carr
Within hours, the police assembled a search party to track down Aurora. Dozens of volunteers came out from around Warwick, but with hundreds of acres of ground to cover, would they be enough?
The Daily Examiner
The team scoured the Australian countryside, but with no success. As night fell, rain and sleet came down, making tracking the little girl even more challenging. Even if they didn’t say it out loud, Leisa and Jake’s hopes began to dwindle.
What the search party didn’t realize, however, was that they weren’t the only ones on Aurora’s trail. Max also set off to find her shortly after she disappeared. With his dulled senses, the Blue Heeler would have to operate on pure intuition.
The Australian wilderness posed a number of threats to both Max and Aurora. Aside from the obvious dangers of exposure and starvation, the environment was chock-full of predators. One sudden snake bite would stop him in his tracks.
But, against all odds, Max came across Aurora! She gave him a big hug, and then the two of them huddled against a rock for warmth. They could only hope help would arrive soon.
National Park Service
The next morning, Leisa was almost despondent. She’d split off from the other searchers to probe the deepest vegetation. She called out Aurora’s name every few seconds, desperate for a response. There was no response.
But then she called out again, and, from far away, heard a faint voice. Suddenly energized, Leisa turned toward a nearby hill where she’d heard the sound. As she ran up, shouting out for Aurora, Max miraculously popped out to greet his owners.
Leisa called Jake over, and the two of them followed the elderly dog uphill. Too excited to question why her 17-year-old dog had appeared, she followed him. Her jaw dropped when he led her and Jake directly to Aurora. She grabbed her granddaughter in a bear hug!
Still, the family wasn’t out of the woods yet. After spending 15 hours out in the elements, they had to make sure the little girl wasn’t in any more danger. Leisa and Jake called in the paramedics to examine the three-year-old.
Though it was hard to believe, Aurora was virtually unscathed from her time out in the open. A warm meal and a couple of days rest would set her right. Of course, she probably never would’ve survived if her half-blind dog hadn’t tracked her down.
The entire town of Warwick hailed Max as a hero, and the authorities even named him an honorary police canine! Nobody expected it, but this old dog learned more than a few new tricks.
Pups prove time and time again they truly are our best friends. Amelia, for instance, who was deaf just like Max, found that out herself. The Tennessee native constantly pushed herself to do the extreme — and on one occasion, she needed some help.
John Garay / Facebook
See, in the summer of 2017 Amelia spent time hiking through and camping in the gorgeous national parks offered out west — nothing too serious. In 2018, though, she planned to outdo herself.
On June 19, 2018, Amelia packed her bags—including an emergency tracker device her mother insisted she bring—and headed to Chugach State Park, right, an expanse of rocky mountain and serene rivers about 30 miles east of Anchorage, Alaska.
There, she hiked on her own along winding mountain paths, which, she noted, taxed her far more than she’d expected. As a Southerner, she hadn’t considered there’d still be snow in June. So she changed her plans.
On the second day of her trip, she descended into the Eagle River Valley. Just four miles into the hike, her walking sticks snapped in two. She slid for 300 feet, smashed into a boulder, then fell another 400 feet down a snowy, gradual slope.
The 21-year-old ended up bleeding and broken, looking up at the mountains—a very dramatic moment. Facing death, the only thing she could think of was that her dream vacation was over. Then she saw something terrifying.
A wolf “appeared out of no where,” and watched her in her state of weakness. Hardly able to stand—and with no one around—she stood no chance against a wolf. But then, she noticed something around the animal’s neck that gave her relief.
What she thought was a wolf wore a bone tag that read “Crow Pass Guide,” along with an address. It was then she knew this was no wolf, but a white husky named Nanook. He’d come to rescue her.
Nanook “gave me the motivation to get up and walk,” Amelia said. So she did just that. With the white husky at her side, she walked back to the trail. When night fell, she set up a tent and invited Nanook inside. The dog declined.
But the dog didn’t go anywhere. “I realized he really was sticking with me when he greeted me in the morning when I unzipped my tent,” Amelia said. “He had stayed the entire night next to me.” He offered more help, too.
Along the trail, Amelia and Nanook encountered the Eagle River crossing: a roiling, swirling, and freezing point of the river. Amelia tried twice to cross it. On the second time, she slipped, and the water pulled her under.
After 15 minutes caught in the swell, Amelia bolted back toward the shore. Nanook had grabbed her backpack and pulled her to safety. Afraid of hypothermia, Amelia curled up into her sleeping bag. There, Nanook kept licking her face.
In fact, he licked her face until she remembered the emergency tracker her mother made her take on the hike. When prompted by Nanook, she activated it, sending alerts to Alaska State Troopers.
Several hours later, trained rescue workers descended on her location in a helicopter before scooping the miserable Amelia and her canine companion up. Rescuers brought Amelia to an Anchorage hospital.
Alaska State Troopers / Facebook
When Amelia recounted her story, the troopers were floored. “Nookie was nothing short of a modern-day Lassie hero,” one rescuer, Alaska State Trooper Lt. Eric Olsen, said. Inspired by the pooch, Lieutenant Olsen personally brought the dog home.
There, the trooper met Scott Swift, Nanook’s owner, left. When he heard what his dog had been up to the past 24 hours? “I was definitely pretty floored,” he said. “It sends chills up my spine when I think about it. I certainly didn’t train him to do anything like this.”
Scott continued, “It’s a pretty powerful feeling that this dog had this instinctual ability to want to go help people.” The state of Alaska recognized that, too, and gave Nanook a special honor for his work…
For his heroics, Nanook was made an honorary Alaska State Trooper! The “free spirit” dog would no doubt look good in the uniform. Amelia couldn’t have been happier for her savior.
Amelia recovered in Anchorage and actually continued the dream vacation she once thought would end violently. She did, however, take plenty of time away from hiking to spoil Nanook with lots and lots of treats!