Lifestyle & Human Interest

Missing Hiker's Body Finally Found After Six Days; Loyal Dog Nearly Died Staying with Owner's Body


Prescott, Arizona, is a place of natural beauty and rugged terrain. Many people choose to retire there, especially those who appreciate the outdoors, and people regularly take day trips from Phoenix to enjoy the cooler temperatures during the summer.

But that rugged natural beauty can turn dangerous in an instant, and the expansive Prescott National Forest — an impressive 1.25 million acres — recently claimed another victim.

Donald Hayes, 74, from Prescott, set out hiking Mingus Mountain with his black-and-white mixed-breed dog, Ranger, on Friday.

At some point during their hike, he realized he was lost, but was able to make a call and ask for help.

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“Donald Hayes contacted YCSO Forest Patrol last Friday afternoon stating he had become lost on his hike on Mingus Mountain,” the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook Wednesday.

“Forest Patrol informed him that rescue would be on its way and to remain at his location. Unfortunately, the victim decided against the advice and tried to find his way out, causing him to become lost further in the forest.”

Search and Rescue teams from Gila County, Maricopa County, Coconino County and the local community also showed up to help look for the man on foot, by vehicle and by air.

“YCSO Backcountry Search and Rescue (SAR), Verde SAR, search dogs, the Sheriff’s Volunteer OHV Unit, 4×4 Unit and Jeep Posse personnel along with a DPS Ranger helicopter searched on foot, vehicle and air for days trying to locate Mr. Hayes but had trouble due to the difficult terrain and the vast area to be searched,” the post continued.

Despite the vigilant search, Hayes was not found until Wednesday — and by then, he had passed away.

“Mr. Hayes was found in a rugged area that had been difficult for searchers to reach, but they were able to do so this afternoon, allowing them to locate the victim,” the sheriff’s office shared.

Despite the tragic loss of life, the small silver lining in this story is that Hayes’ loyal dog, Ranger, stayed with his master to the bitter end.

Somehow, the dog was alive and he was immediately given an evaluation and treatment.

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“Mr. Hayes’ dog Ranger who was with him on the hike, was found alive having remained with the victim,” the post read. “Ranger was seen to on scene by a volunteer who was a veterinarian and was taken to a local animal hospital for treatment.”

A post by the Yavapai County Search and Rescue K9 Team stated that Ranger was in rough shape when they found him. He had labored breathing, was overheating and had a weak heartbeat.

Volunteers quickly used wet towels to cool him down and administered fluids before he was transported.

One of the SAR volunteers, Dondi West, set up a GoFundMe for the faithful pup to help out with medical costs and take the financial pressure off the grieving family. The page states that Ranger has suffered “severe dehydration and exposure.” More than $3,000 has been donated to the cause so far.

Sheriff David Rhodes expressed his gratitude for the help they received in their search as well as his sorrow over the outcome.

“I thank all the volunteer search and rescue teams and others who gave of their time for 6 days to locate the victim and bring him home,” he said.

“Our searchers utilized every tool at their disposal to find Mr. Hayes and never gave up.

“Our condolences go out to Mr. Hayes’ family, and we wish the outcome could have been different.”

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