An incredible story from Croatia shows how far dogs will go to care for their human companions and how attentive they can be to our needs.
Grga Brkić was climbing the highest peak in the Velebit mountain range about 5,800ft above the Croatian Adriatic coast on Sunday when he fell nearly 500ft down a snowy slope. The fall resulted in a severe fracture of Brkić’s leg, rendering him completely immobile. He must have been afraid to know that he couldn’t do anything to prevent himself from dying of hypothermia.
Two nearby hikers spotted Brkić and his companion North, an eight-month-old Alaskan Malamute, at the bottom of the embankment, but were unable to reach them safely. So they sent for rescuers.
Brkić lay shivering in the snow, so his canine companion lay on top of him to keep him warm until help arrived. Alaskan Malamutes do especially well in cold weather and can withstand temperatures as low as -20°F. They have thick, waterproof double coats that can keep them warm even in the frozen Arctic.
The two waited 1 p.m. in the freezing cold until more than a dozen first responders arrived on the scene. When they got to the pair, they were amazed to find that the dog had “wrapped itself around [Brkić] and warmed it up.
Brkić later told Croatian media that “the minutes and seconds before they arrived were so slow” but “this little dog is a real miracle”.
Croatian emergency mountaineers, the Hrvatska Gorska Služba Spašavanja, went to work trying to save the hiker and his dog in what they later called “one of the most difficult rescue operations” that they’ve ever tried.
Throughout the ordeal, the dog refused to let go of his friend.
“The dog was curled up next to the owner in the pit the whole time; he warmed his owner with his body, thus avoiding the serious hypothermia of the mountaineer who suffered a serious fracture of the lower leg and ankle during his fall,” said Josip Brozičević, head of the Croatian services of mountain rescue.
Rescuers were eventually able to rescue the hiker and his brave dog and they were airlifted by helicopter to a nearby hospital. At the hospital, the hiker underwent emergency surgery. The dog emerged unscathed from the incident.
Following Sunday’s rescue, the Brkić family shared an update on Grga and North, letting everyone know they are doing great.
“North is home, say hello and relax,” wrote Antonija Sjauš Brkić. “Grga will be fine. HGSS…we have no words…thank you!!!”
Rescuers say the dog’s bravery and compassion is a lesson we can all learn from. “Friendship and love between man and dog have no boundaries,” the rescuers wrote on Sunday. “His loyalty did not end even when the savior arrived… From this example, we can all learn to care for one another.”
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