An injured hiker who waited hours to be rescued from snow-covered Croatian mountains survived the ordeal with help from his four-legged companion.
Grga Brkić was with his 8-month-old Alaskan malamute, North, on Jan. 2 when he fell nearly 500 feet down a snowy slope while hiking in the Velebit mountain range. He suffered a severe leg fracture. The dog lay atop the injured hiker for 13 hours until rescuers arrived, thereby saving him from hypothermia, according to Total Croatia News.
Two other mountaineers were also with Brkić during the hike. They were unable to get to him but managed to alert authorities about the situation. Croatia's emergency mountaineers, the Hrvatska Gorska Služba Spašavanja (HGSS), in a Facebook post said that saving the hiker and his dog was "one of the most difficult rescue operations" they completed.
The technically and physically demanding operation was challenging for rescuers due to snow, ice, landslides and broken trees that blocked the trails. Nevertheless, rescuers successfully completed the mission and brought Brkić and North to safety.
North refused to leave Brkić's side even as they transferred him to a helicopter, according to the New York Post. "Friendship and love between man and dog know no boundaries," HGSS wrote in the Facebook post, lauding the canine for staying with Brkić throughout the dangerous ordeal.
"Together in happy and difficult moments, that's life," the post added.
Head of the HGSS Gospić, Josip Brozičević, also praised North for saving Brkić from hypothermia. "The dog was curled up next to the owner in the pit the entire time; he warmed his owner with his body, thus preventing the mountaineer's significant hypothermia who suffered a severe fracture of the lower leg and ankle when he fell," Brozičević said. "In addition, he looked quite sober mentally and physically."
It took the efforts of nearly 30 rescuers to pull the hiker and his dog out of the pit they slipped into. "The minutes and seconds before they arrived were so slow," Brkić told local media, according to The Guardian.
"This little dog is a real miracle," Brkić added.
Although North was commended for saving Brkić from further harm, rescue services warned mountaineers against letting their dogs accompany them on difficult hikes that need special climbing equipment.
Brkić's family shared an update after the rescue and included a photo of North resting at home. "North is home saying hello and relaxing," the post said. "Grga is going to be fine. HGSS … we have no words … thank you!!!"