Strangers team up to carry rottweiler named Odin down Mount Washington


Concord Monitor

Published: 06-12-2021 1:19 AM

She bought the dog harness two years ago, unsure if she’d ever use it.

But Jeannine Robbins, of Thornton, N.H., knew that it was a good idea, that someday she might need one for her golden retriever, Appa.

She never figured, however, that the harness would be a key piece to a six-person civilian rescue this month.

A man and his injured dog, trapped 3 miles up on the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, on Mount Washington, were stuck. Dry, rough rock had cut the dog’s paws, leaving him immobile. Other rocks were slick and treacherous, the incline was steep, and the dog, a rottweiler named Odin, weighed at least 90 pounds. The distressed pooch needed to be carried down.

Sometimes, it’s nice to have a strong dog harness handy.

“I hadn’t even taken the harness out of the package,” Robbins said this week. “I bought it, God forbid, to have in case we needed one.”

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By the time the ordeal was finished, with everyone returning to the parking lot safely, the hiker and his dog had spent 24 hours in a grassy, wooded area. Robbins and her five teammates, all recent strangers to one another, spent about 12 hours on the job.

Robbins was first on the scene. Christina Cozzens of Jackson was No. 3. They said the man’s name was Winston, from western Massachusetts.

He was young and slender and did not appear to have overnight gear, or extra food and water, they said. Odin, however, was big and mad, and his paws were badly cut and bleeding.

Both these women are experienced hikers. Cozzens has hiked all 48 of the state’s 4,000-foot mountains. She hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Robbins hikes, skis, snowshoes and mountain bikes. She’s also a group leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club.

They know tough hikes, and both said this one was tough, featuring wet, jagged rocks and slabs — especially above treeline — and a nasty incline.

“Not an easy trail,” Robbins said.

They wondered why someone ill-prepared would bring a dog and attempt to tackle something so difficult and dangerous.

In addition, help was not on the way. Not officially.

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department does not rescue dogs injured during a hike, said Lt. Robert Mancini of Fish and Game.

“We do not have the resources to climb a mountain to rescue a dog,” Mancini said. “We have to direct search and rescue to people.”

Each year, Fish and Game and other agencies warn hikers and campers not to be stupid. But, inevitably, some are.

“It’s important to know your limitations and the limitations of who you are hiking with, person as well as animal,” Mancini said. “If the dog is used to walking around in the backyard, it’s not a good idea to take the dog up a mountain with rugged terrain.

“It’s a nice story that someone came and helped,” he said.

There were six volunteers, united in a common goal. They climbed there to help.

Robbins and Cozzens saw the alert on Facebook from hikers who had passed Winston and Odin. The message said it was urgent. It asked if anyone had a dog harness.

The hike was nearly 3 miles. The two women, at separate places on the trail, gathered information from hikers on their way down. The dog couldn’t move. They’d been given food and water. And a sleeping bag.

“My mind started to think, ‘How are we going to get the dog out,’ ” Cozzens said. “This was super-technical. Very wet rocks. Very slippery.”

They arrived at the spot in late morning. They bandaged Odin’s paws with gauze. Then, a plan. There wasn’t time to hike up to the Cog Railway for its final ride.

Enter the dog harness.

They took it out of its package, finally. They read the instructions. Then they secured the dog in the harness and began to climb down.

Two men shared the burden, passing the harness back and forth after 15-minute shifts, relying on Cozzens to make sure their feet landed on the flattest, driest spots she could find.

“We talked the whole way down,” Cozzens said. “We had nine hours together, and we had to put a lot of trust in each other.”

Soon, hikers were heading toward them, with food and water, around every turn. Then those people would join the caravan down, until two or three dozen were walking with the original six, triumphantly back to civilization.

In the parking lot, they discovered watermelon and cold drinks on a picnic table. They learned that the New Hampshire Animal Rescue Team and Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue, both nonprofits, lent a hand.

“Exhausted, hungry but elated,” was how Robbins described it.

She drove home to Thornton. And to Appa, her golden retriever.

“I looked at my dog,” Robbins said, holding her dog harness. “I told him, ‘Appa, you’re lucky you’ve never had to use one of these.’ ”