Dogs are never too young to be heroes, as one puppy demonstrated when he helped keep a four-year-old girl alive and safe for the nearly two weeks they spent in the wolf- and bear-infested wilderness of Siberia. He only left her long enough to bring back a search team to find her.
When Rodion Chikitova left his home to go on a trip to his native village on July 29th, he had no idea that his young daughter, Karina, would be coming along. He didn’t plan to take her, but she tried to follow him and got lost in the woods. Thankfully, her puppy tagged along.
Karina’s mother thought that Rodion had brought her with him, and only learned the horrifying truth when she called him a few days later. A search in the Sakha Republic, one of Siberia’s coldest regions, was initiated.
Crews searched by air and land for five days with no trace of her. Some of the men on the ground were even forced to fend off a bear. Chances of finding the girl and pup alive in these conditions and 40-degree weather were becoming increasingly slim. But after nine days, the dog returned to the girl’s village of Olom.
“Two days before we found Karina her puppy came back home. That was the moment when our hearts sank, because we thought at least with her dog Karina had chances to survive – night in Yakutia are cold and some areas have already gone into minus temperatures,” explained Afanasiy Nikolayev, spokesman for the Sakha Republic Rescue Service.
“If she was to hug her puppy, we thought, this would have given her a chance to stay warm during nights and survive. So when her dog came back we thought ‘that’s it’ – even if she was alive – and chances were slim – now she would have definitely have lost all hopes. Our hearts truly and deeply sank.”
But the dog didn’t just return – he came to get people to find her. He led rescuers exactly to her. Karina had been hiding out in some tall grass, which is why she couldn’t be spotted from above.
“Suddenly with the dog’s help we saw Karina siting in the grass. We rushed to her, got her a little tea and grabbed her to run back to the car and doctors,” Nikolayev said. “I carried Karina myself to the car, and she was light as a bird. She weighed hardly 10 kilograms (22 pounds) – but amazingly she was fully conscious.”
Miraculously, the scantily-clad girl only suffered from mosquito bites and a few scratches to her feet. She told rescuers how she survived by eating berries and drinking water from streams.
“We can say that the girl’s mind was not hurt,” said Ekaterina Andreeva, a psychologist with the team. “She is talking, she reacts normally to everything around her. She recalls what happened to her.”
Karina is now recovering in a hospital, and hopefully her heroic companion is being treated like a king.
“We were sure that the puppy was next to the little girl all this time, warming her at night and scaring away wild animals,” Nikolayev said.