RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — Ramon Llamas was taking his usual hike on busy Mount Rubidoux when his dog, Mole, began whimpering and tugging at his leg.
"He was talking to me in his language, he was pulling me from my pants to go down and see the hole," the Riverside man told KTTV-TV (http://bit.ly/109Ew0o).
The puzzled Llamas turned back up the dirt trail he'd been using. The dog led him off the path to some rocks.
In a crack between the boulders was the thin, dirty face of a man who may have been trapped there for days without food or water.
On Tuesday, the man, whose name hasn't been released, remained hospitalized for severe dehydration but he was alert and listed in good condition, city fire Capt. Bruce Vanderhorst said.
Mole, meanwhile, was being praised as a hero.
If Mole hadn't acted, "I think it would be too late," Llamas told the Riverside Press-Enterprise (http://bit.ly/11E37kr). "We find him at the right time."
No one reported hearing the man shout for help even though Mount Rubidoux is popular with hikers and daily exercisers.
Located within the city east of Los Angeles, it has both paved and dirt trails that can draw hundreds of people every day.
Llamas is one of them, hiking every day that he doesn't work.
His dog pulled him to a place off the dirt path and about 100 feet below the paved main access road.
When he first saw something in the boulders, he thought it might be an animal.
"It was dark and it was dusty because he was digging the dirt and I see his big eyes in his face and I thought it was a bear," Llamas said.
Eventually, he and another hiker recognized that the dirty, weak figure was a man caught in a hole in between two boulders. The man called himself Paul.
"He said, 'I need water, please don't leave me.' So I gave him water from my backpack and in a minute he said, 'You got more?' So I give more water," Llamas told KABC-TV (http://bit.ly/YEahyP).
"He said he'd been there between four and six days with no food," Llamas said.
Rescuers were called and pulled him up from the Dumpster-sized rocks in about 90 minutes, Vanderhorst said.
The man seems unclear about how long he'd been trapped, Vanderhorst said.
"He's claiming up to five nights but also said he came up Sunday," which would be a single day, the captain said.
"It looked like he slipped and fell down between two boulders, almost like a funnel into a hole," he said.
The man's shoes remained in the hole and his pants came off during the rescue, Vanderhorst said.
The pants were later retrieved. Llamas told KTTV-TV that he went back up the mountain on Tuesday and retrieved the red-laced, dirt-scuffed white sneakers in order to return them.
He also said Mole, a year-old brindled shepherd-chow mix, has become a celebrity.
"I went for a walk today," Llamas said. "The walk was OK but everybody stopped me just to pet Mole. They don't care about me, they care about Mole.
"Somebody give him a medal up there on the mountain. He's a hero right now."