Real-life Lassie saves owner from desert

Danelle Ballengee is a world champion adventure racer and six-time ‘U.S. Athlete of the Year’. But this ‘ultra athlete’ needed the help of a dog to overcome her biggest challenge yet.

Since Danelle adopted her dog Taz as a puppy from an animal shelter, the two have been inseparable. They even train together!

The squirrel's just a little further
The squirrel’s just a little further

It was a training day when disaster struck. The two were running through Utah’s canyons when Danelle slipped on an icy rock face and fell 60 feet – shattering her pelvis.

Unable to walk, she was stranded in a remote gorge within 1,000 square miles of barren desert.

She recounts, “I dragged myself for 5 hours, making it a ¼ mile.” Taz stayed by her side for two cold nights. By the second, she was beginning to pass out from the pain of internal bleeding. Plus, there was the imminent danger of hypothermia.

Desperate, she whispered to Taz, “I’m hurt, I need help. Can you go and get help?”

Taz started running up and down the canyon, doing sweeps to look for help. But he always returned to check on Danelle. Oh, and lick her face! She says, “He was wagging his tail and started licking the river of tears that were running down my cheeks.”

While out on one of his recons, unbelievably, a trekker spotted Taz and followed the dog on his quad bike. After seeing the stranded Danelle, he called the rescue services.


Danelle recalls, “an airplane was overhead and I raised my arms in case, by chance, whoever it was might see me. The airplane circled and returned. This time lower. It circled again. Then I heard the sound of an engine.”

Led by Taz, the Grand County Search and Rescue team arrived just in time to save Danelle. Doctors say she wouldn’t have survived much longer.

Danelle says, “It’s a real life Lassie. He was on a mission to get somebody back to me. He knew exactly what he was doing.”

Going up!

Taz has received multiple medals of honour including the ASPCA National Hero Dog Award, which is usually reserved for police and war dogs.

Taz, we salute you!

Quotes from Tip Hero and The Dog Heirs website. Video from Animal Planet.

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Blog Post By Lyndsey Whitefield
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