Injured hiker reunited with dog he left on mountain

AP News
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Posted: Feb 10, 2017 8:06 PM

LOMA LINDA, Calif. (AP) — A hiker who was badly injured on Mount Baldy has been reunited with his dog, a week after he was forced to leave her behind on the snowy Southern California slope.

Warren Muldoon, 62, of Whittier was reunited with Dakota on Wednesday at Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he is recovering.

The dog had belonged to his son, who died after a motorcycle crash last year.

"I truly don't know how I'd live the rest of my life if she died up there," Muldoon told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (http://bit.ly/2kO5mOO ).

The 3-year-old German shepherd mix was rescued by experienced hikers who went up the mountain to find her after Muldoon's wife, Connie, posted a plea for help on Facebook.

Muldoon had left home on Feb. 1, intending to climb to the summit of the 10,000-foot-high mountain northeast of Los Angeles.

Muldoon said he and Dakota reached the summit but on the way back down, the wind kicked up and covered the trail. He took a wrong turn then tumbled down a series of waterfalls.

Muldoon's cellphone was broken and he had fractured ribs and was freezing when he decided he had to move on.

Dakota, perched 30 feet above him on a ledge, had fallen twice with him. She was too scared to proceed and the rocks were too slippery for Muldoon to reach her.

"Dakota, you gotta come with me," Muldoon recalled pleading. "I can't leave you here."

Eventually, he did.

He came to another waterfall.

"I said this is bad, this is real bad, but I couldn't go (back) up," he recalled. "So I got on my butt, and I just went down so fast and my foot hit the rock in the water and I heard (my leg) snap."

Muldoon had a broken leg, five broken ribs and a punctured lung when he reached a ledge above a 40-foot waterfall and managed to get the attention of some people in a valley below.

A San Bernardino County sheriff's helicopter rescued him. Dakota was left behind.

The dog had belonged to Muldoon's son, James, who was 32 when he died of brain damage last August after a car ran a red light and hit his motorcycle.

Muldoon's wife, Connie, broke down by her husband's bedside when she learned that Dakota was left on the mountain.

"She's the last piece that I have of my son," she said. "I wasn't ready to say goodbye."

Connie sent out a Facebook post asking people to watch for Dakota. It went viral and caught the attention of several hikers.

Patrick Moran of Yorba Linda, who had been on the mountain hundreds of times, called Muldoon in the hospital and learned where Muldoon had fallen — San Antonio Canyon. Moran sent Facebook posts to numerous hiking groups and pages noting Dakota's probable location.

On Feb. 2, several experienced mountaineers made their way up the mountain to find Dakota.

Ricardo Soria Jr. of Glendora was one of them.

"I made it past the second tier (of the falls) where I peered over a ledge and let out a few whistles," Soria recounted in a post to Instagram. "Within moments, a set of eyes popped up."

Chris Simpson and John Bishop managed to reach Dakota. Simpson lured her into his arms with a package of salami.

Except for dehydration, bruises and a cut to her paw, Dakota was fine.

On Wednesday, Dakota wagged her tail, licked Muldoon's leg bandage and snacked on crackers provided by nurses.

Muldoon told the dog he was sure she would say that "you won't ever go hiking with me ever again."

"That was a bad day," Muldoon said.