K-9 Search and Rescue, out of Dolores, were successful in finding a missing 10-year-old boy in the Rio Grande National Forest on Friday, Aug. 15.
The boy, only identified at Ian, from Texas, was exploring the area around his family's campsite in the Cathedral Peak area when he became lost.
The Dolores K-9 unit was called in to assist Thursday night and arrived on scene at 3 a.m. Friday morning in the remote mountains north of Del Norte. Two search dogs - Quiditty and Darwin - and seven rescue staff responded to the incident.
Base camp was set up in the Cathedral Peak campground. A search dog and handler were sent up the Embargo Trail with no sign of the boy.
The other dog and his handler were sent up the Cathedral Peak Trail, where they found the boy at around 7 a.m. about a mile from his camp.
"He was quite frightened, cold and tired. It was his first night alone in the woods," said K-9 director Chuck Melvin. "The search was in rough terrain and more challenging because it was at night. It was a live find, so that is always good."
The boy was unharmed, and reportedly huddled in a ball throughout the night. Low temperatures were in the mid 40s, and the boy was wearing jeans and a T-shirt.
Officials said he had crossed several creeks and lost track of which way he had come. He had no food or water and had lost his jacket.
Melvin said the night search relies more heavily on the skills of the search dogs to perform and find their way back to the handlers in poor light.
"We can't see them, but they responded well navigating in the dark and returning to us," Melvin said.
Kayla Hardin, K-9 public information officer, praised the boy for staying put during the night.
"That made it easier for us to find him," she said. "The old adage 'hug a tree' when lost is a good strategy. There were a lot of happy tears when he was reunited with his family."
Hardin advises hikers to always carry a backpack with food, water, a whistle, and a jacket.
"The dog was very happy, too. He knew that's who we were looking for," she said.