It seems like it’s “Hero Dog Week” here on OrvisNews.com, as these stories keep popping up. This one is almost six years old, but it’s worth retelling. It’s the amazing story of an adventure racer, Danelle Ballengee, who finds herself injured and stranded in a remote Utah canyon. Her only companion is her dog, Taz, who manages to find the people searching for Ballengee and lead them to her:
That’s when Marshall and the rest of the search party see Taz. In a seemingly conscious effort, the dog eludes their attempts to capture him for just long enough that the humans catch on: This must be Ballengee’s dog. He’s our best clue right now. Let him run.
Initially, Taz leads them away from the trailhead, back toward town. Weird, the rescuers think. But they follow. And Taz sees them. Shortly thereafter he turns around, “like once he knew he had attracted enough attention, it was time to go back into the canyon,” rescue group member Rex Tanner says. The dog darts through the assembled search party and out toward the canyons. Marshall radios ahead to his two Rangers: “Whatever you do, don’t try to catch the dog. Follow it.”
Within minutes Gerhart comes face to face with Taz. The dog takes off over a rise then down to an older Jeep track with Gerhart in pursuit on foot. Eventually Taz runs up into a canyon too fast for Gerhart to follow, but the bushy rescuer doesn’t need to. Trained by the U.S. Marshal’s office as a desert tracker, Gerhart has spotted three prints in the soft dirt: a 2-day-old set of dog prints, a fresh set of dog prints, and a set of shoe prints “that certainly looked like they could be a female runner,” he says. All three prints are headed in the same direction.
He hurries back to his Ranger and burns down the canyon, following the tracks. A few minutes later, at 3:38 p.m., he comes upon a stunning sight. Ballengee is alive, lying on her back crying as Taz lies next to her, his snout on her chest.