Dog’s Best Friend

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Rescuing Riley, Saving Myself: A Man and His Dog’s Struggle to Find Salvation

Rescuing Riley, puppy rescued from a 350′ deep slot canyon

This is the video Zak Anderegg shot when he found and rescued an abandoned puppy in a slot canyon. This story is now described in the book, “Rescuing Riley, Saving Myself”.

While hiking on a solo vacation in a remote, uninhabitable region of Arizona, Zachary Anderegg happened upon Riley, an emaciated puppy clinging to life, at the bottom of a 350-foot canyon. In a daring act of humanity that trumped the deliberate savagery behind Riley’s presence in such a place, Zak single-handedly orchestrated a delicate rescue.

What didn’t come out in the initial burst of publicity this story received is that Zak and Riley’s destinies were intertwined long before they improbably found each other. For much of Zak’s childhood, he was at the bottom of a veritable canyon himself—a canyon whose imprisoning depth and darkness was created by bullies who just wouldn’t quit and parents who weren’t capable of love. From the age of five, Zak was everyone’s favorite target.

When Zak came upon Riley, the puppy’s condition bespoke his abusers’ handiwork—three shotgun pellets embedded beneath his skin, teeth turned permanently black from malnutrition. The meeting was one of a man and a dog singularly suited to save each other. As a former US Marine sergeant, Zak was one of only a few people with the mettle and physical wherewithal to get Riley out. And in rescuing him, Zak was also attempting to save himself, conquering the currents of cruelty that swelled beneath his early life and always threatened to drown him.


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0 responses to “Dog’s Best Friend

  1. Friends, this happens more often than not. For me, it happened when I bought Dakota over the Internet from aPomeranian breeder at 100 Mile House, a remote village in Northern BC.

    Sold to me as a Pom, when he arrived it was clear he was not, although his striking good looks turns many a head when we are out. He also had many strange behaviour problems, as he was 2.5 yrs old and had a formed personality.

    Because I’d acquired PTSD via 5 or 6 rear-end car crashes, I was able to recognise my problems in him. It’s taken more than two years, but we now have bonded, and he’s come to trust me, as I don’t try to change his odd behaviours.

    I found that unconditional love and time will allow others to modify their behaviour on their own. It’s as if we gave them the confidence and permission to do it on their own terms, in their own way.

    I believe he was sent to me because we were meant to be together, Heaven-sent if you will, and help one another to heal: my grieving the loss of my 15.6 yrs Pom Teddy, and Dakota sorting out what had happened to him as well.

    • traildustfotm

      That’s great advice, josephbc69. A lot more people and animals could experience increased health and peace, if we all followed this formula.

      • Funny thing is because he was raised by two women –and what I suspect was an abusive husband who came home periodically to the last one of them– he still has an automatic “go to” for any human female. He is still shy about men, but WAY better than the first year I had him, when he was better than Houdini at escaping from our large yards.

        When I first got him, at any raised voice or small noise he’d run under my bed and not come out for long periods. But Teddy helped bring him around, as animals do know and bond to one another. And yes, even as we, all sentient beings w/a soul of some sort.

  2. Sometimes, only God’s creatures — those “Creatures Without Sin” — can reach deeply troubled humans. That’s why some prisons have their convicts work with and train dogs.

  3. Ah, sweet story!

  4. I personally believe that everything in life happens for a reason. The events that shape us in childhood, affect what kind of adults we choose to become. I have found through my personal experiences that those of us who have suffered greatly, love greatly, as well. I am so glad Riley has Zachery and Zachery has Riley!

  5. WONDERFUL story-I always love happy “middles”-I suspect the “end” is a long,long way off. I’m indescribably glad Riley was “given” to these people.

  6. Tears. Traildust…this post has moved me immensely. Thank you so much. (All our treasured pets were/are cast-offs….too many stories to tell….and, we also raised a “cast-off” child, a foster child, victim of heroin-addicted felon-“parents.” We were NOT “signed up” to become foster parents…but an emergent situation presented itself through a youth group I led….) God speaks to us through many sources….sometimes it’s through our own convictions, sometimes it’s through others, and many times, God appeals to whom we are in our deepest sense of morality through a helpless, dependent being–perhaps a domestic animal, a child, the homeless vet….It is not by CHANCE our paths cross those in need….but how we respond defines who we are by giving US a CHANCE to live the life of Christ. if some don’t believe me, consider about how He spoke to us—-and continues to speak to us down the thousands of years—through a baby born in lowly circumstances, “cast off” into a manger, abided by only the other “lowly creatures” of the place…..

    • “It is not by CHANCE our paths cross those in need… but how we respond defines who we are by giving US a CHANCE to live the life of Christ.”
      Perfectly said/written, and it explains why I’ve been a ‘fool for Christ’ since leaving HS [1960].

      Sure, there were many who bit my hand and stole from me, but the ones that recover and find themselves, they more than make up for the rotten apples.

  7. Wow – definitely a weeper….Our beloved pets will be in heaven with us, if we make it. Thanks so much for making my day!


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