THE SCENE MIGHT HAVE BEES LIFTED from the cover of Boys' Life: A 15-year-old boy in blue jeans and cowboy hat, hiking in western Nebraska's Wildcat Hills as his 5-year-old springer spaniel, Katie, trotted ahead. But Matt Myers's Sunday-afternoon walk turned suddenly into an all-night fight for survival. As dense fog and a blinding blizzard engulfed the area, Matt quickly became disoriented. "I think maybe Katie knew the way back," he says, "but she didn't want to leave me."
Aware that a misstep could send him plummeting down one of the rugged terrain's deep ravines, Matt reassured Katie—"We'll be all right, girl"—as he prayed and hollered into the subzero night for help. Taking refuge after midnight under a tree, with Katie curled up next to him, Matt lost feeling in his feet and legs. "That really scared me," he says. "I thought I wouldn't make it."
Yet even as his own strength ebbed, Matt took pity on his dog. "I saw Katie was shivering, so I took off my coat and wrapped it around her for half an hour," Matt says. As he drifted off to sleep, Katie climbed on his chest to warm him. Awaking near dawn, he saw "a big drift of snow at my feet. I thought Katie was underneath it, dead."
But Katie soon returned to Matt from a nearby hill and stayed by his side as he hobbled a mile to an open hillside where airborne rescuers spotted the pair shortly after noon. "When I'd fall," he says, "Katie would whine and lick me in the face until I would get up."
Matt was found—"conscious but incoherent," according to one rescuer—just 2½ miles from home in little Gering, Nebr., where his parents, Randy, a probation officer, and Judy, a teacher's aide, were anxiously waiting. As he was being taken to the hospital, where his frostbite and hypothermia were treated to prevent lasting effects, the boy had one question: "Is the dog all right?"
Not only is Katie fine, she is up to her collar in dog-biscuit gifts for her part in saving Matt's life.
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