The hike must be getting to Tia; was that a dog she saw limping along the mountain trail? The pooch was in a bad way and likely needed medical attention. Leaving him stranded on the slope would break Tia’s heart, so there was only one thing for it: she eased the dog onto her shoulders and steeled herself for the downward trek.
As a 40-year-old mother of three, Tia Vargas is a busy woman, but she doesn’t spend all her downtime resting up. Instead, she has a far more energy-intensive and physically challenging pastime: hiking. More specifically, Vargas enjoys walking the mountain trails of her home in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Considering the alpine nature of its terrain, Idaho is actually the ideal location for such a hobby. To begin with, parts of the Rocky Mountains pass through the state. And it also hosts lots of other elevations and foothills to test adventurous walkers.
Table Rock in Ada County is a particular draw for the hiking crowd thanks to the height of its peak, which stands 11,106 feet above sea level. Vargas liked the sound of that challenge, so on July 5, 2018, she started the long walk. Accompanying her on the hike was her father Ted Kasper.
Understandably, the 76-year-old found the route tougher going than his daughter, so she went on ahead, returning regularly to check on his progress. It was this staggered approach to the climb that led to Vargas seeing an unusual sight before her father did.
As she scouted the trail ahead of her father, Vargas saw a dog trailing a pair of fellow hikers. The dog was an English springer spaniel, but it wasn’t in the best of health. In fact, judging by its limp, the canine appeared to be injured. What’s more, the pooch didn’t belong to the hikers.
On July 30, 2018, Vargas told People magazine how the walkers approached her, thinking she was the dog’s owner. “They asked if he was mine,” Vargas said. “They’d seen a note at the bottom of the trail mentioning that somebody had lost their dog.”
Vargas continued, “The tag on his collar said his name was Boomer, and I could see that he was hurt.” On July 31, 2018, she described the dog’s condition to ABC News. “His eyes were super puffy and bloodshot,” she recounted. “His body was swollen, even his bum was very, very swollen.”
But that wasn’t all. “You could tell he was very dehydrated,” Vargas added. “He had cuts and scratches on his belly and on his head. He was in bad condition.” As a result, Vargas took Boomer’s fate into her own hands – literally.
“I decided right then, ‘Okay, Boomer, I’ll help you,’” Vargas told People. Concerned that the dog might not make the trip unaided, she picked him up and put him over shoulders. Then she headed back down the path to check on her dad.
Kasper was taken aback to see his daughter carrying a 55-pound dog on her shoulders. “He laughed and said, ‘You don’t think this hike is hard enough without carrying a heavy dog, too?’” Vargas recalled. “I told him, ‘Dad, this dog is lost and hurt; there’s nobody else. I can do this.’”
Vargas couldn’t bear the thought of leaving Boomer by himself, so she and her dad – plus their new addition – started to make their way down the mountain. With the extra cargo to think about, Vargas plumped for the easier of two routes down the elevation. Unfortunately, though, there was trouble in store.
You see, the path that Vargas wanted to take had seen some heavy snowfall, which made it too dangerous to navigate. So the pair had to take the steeper path, and they ended up losing their bearings a couple of times along the way. If that wasn’t bad enough, the weather conditions then started to take a turn for the worse.
Rain started to pour down on the hikers, adding to Vargas’ considerable fatigue. Thanks to Kasper, though, it didn’t dampen her spirits for very long. “He made a joke,” Vargas said of her father. “It made me laugh, and I thought, ‘I’m alright. I can do this.’”
The hiker continued, “So I said a little prayer and I picked up Boomer. It literally felt like someone had walked up behind me and lifted the weight off my shoulders.” In total it took Vargas and Kasper over six hours to descend Table Rock.
The journey was certainly worth it, though. At the base of the trail, Vargas found the note the other hikers had mentioned – and on it were the contact details of the dog’s owners. When Vargas called them, Boomer’s humans proceeded to fill in the gaps in the story.
Apparently, Boomer had fallen down an icy cliff the previous night and had disappeared without a trace. Despite his family conducting an extensive search of the area, there was no sign of him. As a result, although his humans hoped for the best, they feared their dog was dead.
The family told Good Morning America how they had “prayed for a miracle” – and got one in the form of Vargas. Boomer’s owners were so grateful, in fact, that they offered their pooch to the hero rescuer. Mindful of something her kids had said, Vargas accepted, and Boomer went to his new forever home to recover from his injuries.
As fate would have it, Vargas’ children had been yearning for a pupper to play with. “My girls begged me for a dog,” she informed ABC News. “I told them that he would pretty much have to be dropped in my lap and already trained. And he’s all that.”
Vargas said she couldn’t have just left Boomer to his fate. “If it were my dog, or my child, or someone I loved, I would want someone to do that for me. There’s no way I could have left him up there and still had a heart at peace.”