Loyal dog's microchip helps identify collapsed runner

The dog remained by his owner while bystanders performed CPR

By Kerri Sandaine
Lewiston Tribune

ASOTIN, Wash. — Emergency responders who arrived at the Asotin bike path to treat a runner in distress found a man in critical condition and a large, black dog by his side.

The 60-year-old runner didn't have much of a pulse and no one knew who he was, officials said. Fortunately, several people were on the trail Tuesday evening between Critchfield Road and Asotin when the man collapsed.

The first walkers and cyclists on the scene took turns performing CPR until the ambulance arrived, said Asotin Police Chief Monte Renzelman. Throughout the ordeal, the man's canine companion didn't budge.

"That dog would not leave this guy's side," Renzelman said. "At one point, he busted out of his collar just to get back to him."

After the unidentified man was taken to St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Renzelman had to place a piece of the jogger's clothing in his patrol car just to get the dog to crawl inside.

Howdy, who is part German shepherd, black Lab and border collie, was the only clue officials had as they tried to piece together the man's identity and notify next of kin about his medical emergency.

In hopes the dog had a microchip with the owner's information, authorities contacted the veterinarian on call, Dr. David Ard of Southway Animal Clinic. After hearing the story, Ard agreed to scan the dog, Renzelman said. Sure enough, Howdy had a chip.

The information helped law enforcement identify the runner as Dan Smith and they contacted his spouse, Cindy Smith. The Smiths live in the Clarkston Heights.

"I just had that feeling in my gut that something wasn't right that night," Cindy said Wednesday. "My husband always parks at Critchfield and runs to Asotin and back with Howdy. They were gone longer than usual, so I drove down there in my Jeep."

Dan's vehicle was still parked at Critchfield Road and it was starting to get dark. Cindy, who works at Potlatch No. 1 Federal Credit Union, drove back to their home to get a flashlight.

When she returned, she hit the trail in search of her husband and his dog.

"I do not run," she said, "but I did that night."

There was no sight of the man and his best friend.

Realizing something was amiss, Cindy decided to call the Asotin County Sheriff's Office. That's about the time she got a message from St. Joe's about Dan. Her husband of 35 years was in critical condition and Howdy was in the back of a patrol car.

"I would really like to thank the people who helped Dan on the bike path," said Cindy, 59. "If it had not been for them, I'm not sure where we'd be now."

Dan, a manager for Cable One, is still listed in serious condition and undergoing tests, she said. Howdy is waiting for him to come home.

"Everywhere Dan goes, Howdy goes," she said. "They are inseparable."

The Smiths adopted Howdy from Animal Ark in Kamiah when he was just a pup, about three or four years ago.

"The funny thing is I don't even remember having him microchipped," Cindy said. "All I know is he's a very good boy."

Copyright 2016 the Lewiston Tribune

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