Hero dog leads rescuers to his injured owner after man’s 70-foot fall

A border collie named Saul led rescuers to his fallen owner, who injured his hip and many ribs after falling from a ridge in Tahoe National Forest.

After leading the Nevada County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue (NCSSAR) team to his injured owner, who had fallen 70 feet over a ridge in Tahoe National Forest, a dog has been dubbed a “real-life Lassie.”

A 53-year-old man and his border collie Saul were camping in Tahoe National Forest on Wednesday when the man fell 70 feet down a ridge, shattering his hip and many ribs, according to an NCSSAR Facebook post.

CalFire received the original report regarding the injured camper and contacted the NCSSAR team for assistance. NCSSAR dispatched 25 search and rescue volunteers into the Tahoe National Forest to locate the dog’s owner. The NCSSAR volunteers found the man on their first day of searching, but Saul was credited with the rescue.

“True credit goes to the subject’s k9 Border Collie that ran through the forest approximately 200 yards and in true ‘LASSIE’ fashion to flag down two searchers and led them back to the subject,” NCSSAR wrote on Facebook.

“The dog jumped up and down, spun around in circles, and ran 20 feet ahead of them,” said Sgt. Haack, who was communicating with the team from a nearby command post. One of the volunteers radioed Haack and told him they were going to follow the dog as they believed he was trying to lead them somewhere.

“We didn’t put a whole lot of faith in it,” Haack told the New York Times. “But I do put a lot of faith in our searchers because they’re extremely good at what they do.”

Not only did Saul lead the team directly to his owner, but he did it so quickly that the man was airlifted to a hospital within eight hours of when he first called 911.

When rescuers headed by Saul arrived at the injured man, they carefully moved him out of the jungle, and an air ambulance flew him to a hospital for treatment. The next day, Saul saw the owner he had helped save.

According to NCSSAR, Saul was treated to a “well-deserved” meal and spent the night at a local animal sanctuary during their day apart.

Most dogs want to rescue their owners if given the opportunity

While there are several cases of canine companions assisting their owners, Saul’s ability to seek assistance and direct rescuers to his owner isn’t as typical as we may imagine. In a similar situation, just about a third of dogs would seek help on their own, according to 2020 research from Arizona State.

Nonetheless, researchers discovered that a dog’s reaction to its owner’s grief had more to do with its training and understanding than with its desire to aid the person. According to tests, most dogs desire to save their owners if given the chance—they simply need to know how.

“What’s fascinating about this study is that it shows that dogs really care about their people,” one of the lead authors of the study wrote. “Even without training, many dogs will try and rescue people who appear to be in distress—and when they fail, we can still see how upset they are. The results from the control tests indicate that dogs who fail to rescue their people are unable to understand what to do—it’s not that they don’t care about their people.”