Kirk Loux can’t explain why he decided to stop his car and hike up a butte near China Hat that Saturday about three weeks ago. He wasn’t dressed for it, and his sneakers weren’t the best footwear for the climb.
“I was just out driving in China Hat, and decided to see where the snow was,” he said Monday. “I parked my car at the base of the butte and walked straight up.”
Joe Cope, a contractor from Bend, was glad Loux, a stay-at-home father of one, also of Bend, decided to stretch his legs that day on a pile of volcanic rock Loux calls Lava Top Butte.
Six days prior and six miles away, Cope, 60, finished up a walk with his four dogs — Kiko, Gypsy, Sheba and Mika — on a trail near China Hat, a landmark east of Newberry National Volcanic Monument. When he reached his Honda in the parking lot and took roll, one of his animals was missing: Kiko, a 9-year-old shiba inu, a Japanese breed, and the one with the hard-luck history.
“I called and rehiked, and wandered all over,” he said. “I stayed there until it was dark. I put a blanket under a tree, so he’d have a familiar scent and place to lay down and wait for us.”
Cope said he returned the next day, Monday, and for two days after that, but found no trace of Kiko. “I figured the coyotes got him, or he wandered away,” he said.
“It was pretty upsetting,” he said. “Traumatic. Like losing one of your kids.”
He expected Kiko at any minute to come bounding through the dog door or to jump on the bed at night.
Three days later, by Cope’s count, Loux climbed up the cinder cone, camera in hand, to inspect the view. He said he heard a coyote howl and turned to see, across the space across the rim, a coyote prone in a flat spot in the jumble of rock. He said he approached slowly, hoping to get close. What he found was no coyote but a dog too weak to do anything other than lift its head.
Eventually, Loux reached past the dog’s growls to read its tag, and learn its name, Kiko, and his owner’s cellphone number. Cope, in Portland when Loux called from the scene, said he was ecstatic.
“Kiko chose the most beautiful spot to die, but today was not his day,” Cope said Loux texted him from the site. “I don’t know why I climbed that butte that day, but I’m glad I did.”
Loux declined a $100 reward; “I was just amazed that I was able to help the dog and that’s what I was about. Helping people and not doing something for myself.”
Kiko took a few days to recover, his owner said. But today he’s healthy and hale, although 8 pounds lighter than his original 30 pounds.
His weeklong odyssey was the latest in a series of misadventures in Kiko’s life, Cope said. As a puppy, the dog was struck by a pickup truck and left in a coma for several days. A veterinarian advised euthanizing the animal, but Cope would not.
Instead, he fed the animal, he said, through a syringe, massaging its throat to help it swallow baby food.
Kiko recovered and later fell through the window of Cope’s moving car as he leaned out a window, attracted by some other dogs.
“He just seems to be an accident-prone dog,” Cope said. “But he’s a survivor. Kind of like a cat, he has nine lives.”