IDAHO FALLS — An Idaho Falls mother was honored Thursday by the American Red Cross of Greater Idaho for carrying a 50-pound dog down a steep mountain while on a hike last summer.
Tia Vargas was named one of 11 East Idaho Real Heroes during a luncheon at the Waterfront at Snake River Landing. Boomer, a four-year-old English Springer Spaniel, is alive today because of Vargas.
It was July 5 and all that was on Vargas’ mind was her 17-year-son Porter.
“I just got this strong feeling that I needed to be up on the mountain,” she tells EastIdahoNews.com. “My son was at a wellness camp because he tried to commit suicide.”
As part of Porter’s therapy, Vargas was asked to do difficult things too, like take a long hike, so she could relate to what her son was experiencing.
“One of the things that I was asked to do is to go figure out how far I could go and then double it,” Vargas says. “If that wasn’t hard enough, then carry a 40-pound pack on my back.”
So off she went with her father up Table Rock near Driggs. Toward the top, she encountered a group of people asking if Boomer was her dog.
He did not look good, was limping and had bumps and bruises all over his body. One of his paws was dislocated and swollen.
A young family was concerned for the dog but Boomer wasn’t theirs.
“It was this really nice family. They didn’t want to leave the dog up there but they wanted to make it up to the top,” Vargas recalls. “I said if I can carry the dog, get him up on my shoulders, then I’ll carry him down and see if I could find help.”
That’s when she placed Boomer over her shoulders and began the long six-mile trek down the mountain.
Over the next seven hours, Vargas, her dad, and Boomer got lost a few times, they stopped to rest several times, and, at one point, she had to slide down snow with the pooch in her lap.
“The dirt was so loose that I kept sliding and I was afraid I was going to dump him on his butt,” she says. “So I put him in my lap and slid down the snow for a ways down.”
With two miles left to go, Vargas says she couldn’t go any further. With tears streaming down her face, she said a prayer and told God she needed help.
“Right then I literally felt the weight come off of me,” Vargas says. “I really felt that somebody was there to help and nobody was there. That’s when I knew I was getting help from angels.”
Vargas says the rest of the hike was a breeze and when she got to the bottom of the mountain, there was a small note pinned to a notice board about a missing dog named Boomer.
“When we called them, the first question they asked was if he was dead,” Vargas says. “They have a 9-year-old son that had been praying all night that somebody would find him and that he would be ok because he fell off a 100-foot cliff and rolled 200 feet.”
Boomer’s owners were in the middle of a move to Arizona and had arranged for a family in Boise to take their dog.
Vargas asked if she could possibly keep Boomer and they agreed.
“He brings so much joy and so much life into our home,” Vargas says with a smile.
Boomer’s new owner was able to raise over $6,000 online for his vet bills and he’s doing much better today.
So is Porter. He’s home from his wellness camp, is working a full-time job and loves his new family pet.
“He actually wrote me a letter and said, ‘Mom, I feel like I’m like that dog. I was lost and I was broken and you helped me. You carried me, you helped me find my way back and now I’m mending getting better,'” Vargas says holding back tears.
Vargas says she didn’t do anything special in saving her dog and believes she was meant to be on the mountain that day for Porter, for her and for Boomer.
“I’m just a person that did the right thing,” she says. I was in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.”