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Home / Neighborhood / Riverside County / Rescued dog at Joshua Tree National Park reunites with pet owner

Rescued dog at Joshua Tree National Park reunites with pet owner

by Staff
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A man and his dog were reunited after a rescue in Joshua Tree National Park, illustrating the need for pet owners to use caution when in wilderness areas, the Riverside County Department of Animal Services announced Tuesday.

Christian Corona of Chino Hills was camping June 9 at the Jumbo Rocks campground when Onyx, his 10-month-old Doberman, seemingly got spooked and ran away. Corona’s many attempts to find the dog all day Saturday and early Sunday were unsuccessful.

“I never thought I would see him again,” Corona, 28, said in a statement.

Later on Sunday, National Park officials received reports of a dog sighting and learned that Onyx had climbed about 200 feet to a perch on rock formations near the campground, according to Animal Services. The Joshua Tree National Park Search & Rescue, or JOSAR, was activated to retrieve the dog.

Fortunately for the JOSAR team, which includes volunteers and National Park Service staff members, Onyx was in an area that did not require much technical rock climbing— the hike to the wayward pooch only took about 15 minutes.

“Some said he resembled a big horn sheep,” according to a county statement. “Rescue officials reached the dog and he barked, as if he was startled, but it didn’t take long to warm up to his rescuers. One of them poured a bowl of water and Onyx started chugging the water. It was obvious to the rescuers the dog was very dehydrated.”

After providing the dog with comfort, assurance and treats, rescuers harnessed Onyx and eased him down from his newfound but very temporary perch to instead have a seat inside a park ranger’s well-air-conditioned vehicle, officials said.

Following the rescue, Riverside County Animal Services Officer Bryan Yarnall transported Onyx to the county’s Thousand Palms shelter. Staff there found a social media post on missing pets in the Morongo Basin and noticed a report about the missing Doberman. An Animal Services employee then contacted Onyx’s owner.

“This is one of our more unique reunions,” Animal Services Director Erin Gettis said in a statement. “People don’t realize we respond to Joshua Tree National Park since the majority of the park is within Riverside County. Pet owners should always be vigilant in protecting their pets from situations like this. A microchip or collar with a tag could have resulted in a much sooner reunion. Heading toward the Fourth of July holiday, we encourage all owners to ensure the chip info for your pet is up to date and your dog is wearing a tag and collar kept in a safe location or on a leash.”

Of course only Onyx knows and will never tell why he ran off.

Corona said in a statement he had walked to one of the campground bathrooms and a buzzing sound caused his dog’s legs to quiver, which he said occurs when Onyx becomes unnerved. It might have been a hive of bees, Corona speculated.

“He bolted back to the campground and to my surprise he ran straight into the tent,” Corona said. “What baffles me is, when I got near him, he barks at me. The he just runs, books it to the road, fast. I got in my car to try to catch up with him. But we’re in the desert, there are no walls, no fences. Who knows when he’s going to stop?”

Temperatures in the area reached the mid-90s on Saturday and Sunday, and officials used the incident to remind pet owners to take extra precautions.

A dog is required to be leashed at all times in a national park, and pet owners must be aware that an animal’s behavior is very different inside a national park because it’s a wilderness area, according to Animal Services. There are a lot of dangers for a pet such as water scarcity and larger predators or rattlesnakes.

Corona said “ego” was why off-leash Onyx got away from him — “I have a very close relationship with him and many people come to me for dog advice because they see how well behaved my dog is.”

He said Onyx was leashed all day Friday at the campground and showed few signs of wanting to explore alone, according to the county. The dog stayed calm and didn’t roam, but on the post-sunrise trip to the restroom, Onyx was not leashed. Corona said he will be a consistent leash user going forward.

“People be warned — dogs are unpredictable,” Corona said. “Who’s to say this could not happen anywhere? It could be a squirrel and he gets excited and then bolts for the street and gets hit by a car. Lesson learned. I am eternally grateful for the rangers and everyone who helped me try to find him. It was so heartwarming — people came together to help. It was just amazing.”

Pet-safety tips are provided by the National Park Service at https://www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/pets.htm

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