When Trevor Goward went for a recent afternoon stroll up the mountainside with his canine companion, Purple, he had no idea his life would soon be in her paws.
Goward was on his way back down the trails in Upper Clearwater as it was turning dusk when he tripped on a log and dislocated his shoulder after putting his hands out to break his fall.
“My arm was sort of hanging down and I realized I was in too much pain to do much, so after thinking about the options available I decided to send Purple down to get help. I said, ‘Can you go get Curtis?’” said Goward, referring to his partner, Curtis Bjork, who was back at the house working in the garden.
“She looked at me and she knew there was something wrong. As soon as I said it, she just ran down the trail.”
When Purple made the 2.5 km journey back to the house it didn’t take Bjork long to realize something was off. Judging by her agitation and the absence of Trevor he sprang into action himself, grabbing extra clothing and survival supplies.
Before heading into the bush he made contact with neighbours Mike and Susan Ward, who along with Bjork are part of the Upper Clearwater Fire Brigade. As luck would have it the Wards also had dinner guests, Lisa and George Seip, who had medic training.
The Ward’s immediately contacted others in the brigade, as well as the RCMP, while Bjork took no time in putting his faith in Purple, telling her to, “Find Trevor.”
“(Ward’s guests) had training, so they went to help Curtis while Mike stayed in contact via radio; Curtis also had GPS and we had the exact location and printed a map,” said Steve Murray, chief of the Upper Clearwater Fire Brigade.
“So Mike had also mobilized Search and Rescue (SAR) and we were able to provide an exact location of where Trevor was.”
Bjork had followed Purple up the trail, with Purple pausing every time there was a fork in the path and barking to make sure she was being followed correctly until sure enough, they came upon Goward, who was shivering and becoming incoherent.
A fire was quickly made and Bjork gave Goward a few more layers of clothing as well as a Tylenol for the pain.
By the time SAR arrived there were two choices: wait until morning and airlift Goward out, or help him down the mountain on foot. The group decided the latter was the best course of action and when Ward and Murray arrived onsite they began cutting a path down the dark, log littered trail to make the trip easier.
“It was a really long walk. I could only go so far and I have no memory of how many times we stopped,” said Goward.
“I was in shock and had hypothermia.”
The situation also drove home the fact that the Upper Clearwater Fire Brigade — a relatively new organization that’s still acquiring gear and equipment — would benefit greatly from having every member equipped with GPS units.
Goward added that while he was waiting by himself he didn’t think he was going to make it, even taking a voice recorder out of his pocket and calmly dictating his final good-byes to the world.
He said had Purple not known what to do, he has no doubts that would have been the result, as it would have taken hours, or perhaps days, before anyone would have found him.
“There was no rescue without the dog. We could mobilize and get ready to go, but we needed a direction and Purple had the direction down pat,” said Murray.
Bjork said he and Goward have been looking at Purple with special affection since the ordeal, while Purple spent hours immediately following the situation looking at Goward with noticeable concern.
“I’ve had lots of intelligent dogs, but Purple is in a class herself,” Goward said.