June 25, 2013
Misty Volaski, email@example.com
An adventure in Ojai’s back country turned into a harrowing ordeal for two hikers and their dogs earlier this week.
The two adult male hikers, a Boston terrier and a boxer-pitbull were one day into a multi-day hiking trip when they ran out of water and became lost, said Sgt. Carl Patterson of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department (VCSD) Search & Rescue unit.
Leaving from Middle Lions Campground Monday, the hikers set out into the Los Padres National Forest. By Tuesday, they realized they were in trouble and decided to release their dogs for reasons unknown. “It’s my understanding that they were separated from the dogs for quite a while before night fell,” said Patterson.
Don Aguilar, VCSD information officer, said family members called the Sheriff’s Department around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, after receiving a text message from the hikers saying they were lost.
A VCSD Search and Rescue air unit was deployed at daybreak Wednesday, and located the hikers at around 8:15 a.m. near Ladybug Campground.
Although the hikers were dehydrated, they did not require medical attention; instead, they were given fluids and were transported to their vehicle at the Middle Lions Campground. On the way to the hikers’ vehicle, said Patterson, the helicopter “flew over several trails trying to locate the dogs,” but were unable to find them.
At that point, several organizations — and the hikers themselves — coordinated efforts and put together search teams to locate the animals.
Mike Milkovich, Ventura County Fire Department division chief, contacted the U.S. Forest Service to expedite a permit, which would allow rescuers access to the fire road system in the back country. The fire department then contacted the Ojai-based Humane Society of Ventura County (HSVC) or help.
“We were scrambling, trying to find someone with a four-wheel-drive (vehicle) small enough to get up there,” said HSVC shelter director Jolene Hoffman. Several residents spread the word about the missing animals and request for four-wheel-drive vehicles on Facebook. One post claimed the dogs had last been seen west of Ladybug Campground.
Teams went back into Los Padres Wednesday afternoon, and by Thursday morning, the Boston terrier had been located. As of press time, she was being cared for by Dr. Matt Bailey at Matilija Veterinary Hospital.
Hoffman reported Thursday afternoon that the second dog still hadn’t been found. “They could hear him, but could not see him,” Hoffman said.
A volunteer with a horse offered to continue the search Friday morning if the dog still hadn’t been located. However, Hoffman said more experienced hikers or horseback riders would be a welcome addition to the search party. “Every minute counts right now,” she said.
Those wishing to help with the search should call the Humane Society’s Ojai Shelter at 646-6505.