Dog rescue serves as inspiration for benefit concert for Grand County Rescue Group

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By SPENCER WILSON

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GRAND COUNTY, Colo. (KCNC) — When brothers Cody and Curtis Culver decided to backpack along Bear Lakes Trail in Grand County’s Zirkel Wilderness earlier this year, they had no idea what who was going to hit them.

It was a storm, and a big one.

“I believe they had six inches to a foot of snow up there, and they couldn’t find their way,” said Joshua Novotny, Grand County search and rescue director.

Cody described the feeling of waking up in his hammock, with the tarp draped over him almost hitting him in the face, weighed down by the snow.

“My entire shelter was covered in ice. So I was a little worried at that point,” Cody said with a laugh.

Curtis had more than himself and his brother to worry about that night, he had taken his dog, Stella, with him on the hike. He did his best to keep her warm as the snow continued to fall.

Early in the morning, the brothers decided they needed help returning, unable to cross fields of snow-covered rocks on a trail they could not find. They used an emergency beacon to send out a call for help, and a few hours later received word that the Grand County Search and Rescue team had received their message.

“And around 2:00 p.m. the helicopter shows up and we’re like, ‘yes, yes, yes. Alright,’ Cody said, thinking back to the crews’ long wait. The helicopter was able to spot the brothers and the dog , but was unable to land in the area.As night fell, Cody and Curtis prepared to settle in for another night.

Around 7:30 p.m., they finally heard crews calling out to them on foot.

“We just wanted to pack everything up, put it away. I don’t care how he sits, broken in there. I’ll handle it, whatever,” Cody laughed.

The team made contact with Cody and Curtis and were preparing them to leave when they realized…Stella ran off into hiding. After more than an hour of searching and with the sun setting on the team, Curtis made the unthinkable decision to leave Stella and head back down.

“I’m drifting further and further away from a dog that I love, and it was a tough decision,” Curtis said, sadly. “I knew and still know it was the right choice. But usually, you know, the right choice is not the easy choice.

“I mean, dog owners will definitely understand what I’m talking about. Pet owners, period. Yeah, it was heartbreaking.

The crews were able to bring the brothers to safety, feed them and keep them warm. But one of the search and rescue teams saw how upset Curtis was and made their own vow not to give up.

Joshua Novotny spent the next few days organizing an unauthorized mission up seven miles to where they had found the Culver brothers. He was able to assemble a team of mission-ready friends in their spare time, and five days later they were off with low expectations.

“At least in the back of my mind I was thinking, we’re just going to have a nice hike in the woods,” said Janel Jordy of Grand County Search and Rescue. “As it is unlikely that we will find a dog, and even if we do find a dog, we don’t know what condition the dog will be in.”

Lo and behold, there was Stella, accidentally caught by her leash on a log, relatively close to camp. Her backpack containing food had been torn and she was afraid of her rescuers. The team had used voice calls broadcast through a speakerphone in Curtis’s voice to try to calm Stella, and brought in fast food burgers to feed the hungry dog.

Still, it took over an hour for Joshua to earn Stella’s trust enough to peel her off and start walking her home.

“There have only been a few missions I’ve been on that have brought me to the brink of tears like tears of joy as people come together,” Jordy said. “I think it was one of them.”

Meanwhile, Curtis anxiously awaited news of a phone call. He said when he saw who was calling, his adrenaline spiked. “I mean, if they hadn’t gone up there, my dog ​​would have died and I would have really thought it was my fault,” Curtis explained.

He had offered a $500 reward to anyone who found the dog. He happily gave this to Joshua, who just laughed.

“As soon as he took it he looked me in the eye like, ‘you know I give it back to search and rescue, don’t you?’ And I’m like, I don’t want that money. You do what you want with it,” Curtis said with a smile.

Joshua’s teammates say his dedication to helping people and his overwhelming love of animals pushed him to go the extra mile and bring this story to a happy ending.

Now the Culver brothers are trying to give back in a big way, helping to organize a benefit concert on August 13 in Winter Park to raise money for the Grand County Search and Rescue group. They’re even headlining with a band they’re a part of, Slopeside.

Grand County Search and Rescue president Michael DonMoyer said he had never experienced anything like this before, and all the volunteer staff would really need help.

“We’re hoping to get a good number of people from the front lineup,” DonMoyer said. “We provide services whether you are a local resident, whether you are an in-state or out-of-state visitor…we are here to help if you need it.”

They already have a use for the silver in mind too, a new command vehicle.

“Our (current) command vehicle is a 25-year-old ambulance that was donated to us many years ago,” DonMoyer said with a smile. “The last mission we had on the brakes caught fire.”

If this story resonated with you, consider attending their concert to help support the team that has given so much to help these people and puppies in need.

“I’m grateful for the whole situation,” Curtis said. “It restored my faith in humanity. It got me my dog ​​back and it also introduced me to a wonderful group of people and a wonderful cause to support.

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