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Search-and-rescue dog teams find missing California woman

A visitor from California spent a night lost in the woods near Clinton and was found by search and rescue dogs the next day.

The woman was found safe early on the morning of April 4 after being lost for more than a day near the Whidbey Institute off Old Pietila Road, the Island County Sheriff’s Office said.

Police did not identify the woman, but said she was taken to the hospital for treatment of exposure after her ordeal.

Rescue workers said she was fortunate she was found so soon.

The woman was lucky to survive for a number of reasons, said Don Mason, search coordinator for Whidbey Search Dogs.

First, she got lost on a night when the clouds covered the sky.

“Luckily it was cloudy instead of clear, which resulted in almost 10 degrees higher temperatures Thursday night as opposed to the 34 degrees the night before,” Mason said. “That probably bought her enough time for us to get to her before she was a victim of the weather.”

The search began after the woman’s husband called from California. He said she was staying at the Whidbey Institute doing research for a book, said Island County Sheriff Mark Brown.

“She was elderly and wandered off and was presumed missing after 24 hours,” Brown said, adding that search-and-rescue dogs were called in at 3 a.m. Friday.

The dogs and their owners from Whidbey Search Dogs reported to the Whidbey Institute offices and planned out their search pattern with Island County officials and other personnel.

Five search-and-rescue teams showed up to help with the effort, most of them from the South End, said David Hollett, Island County’s deputy director for Department of Emergency Management.

It was around 10 to 15 minutes into the search when Hollett received a welcome radio message.

“We got a call saying ‘We got her.’ We were thrilled,” Hollett said.

Susan Marchese and her dog Ola had found the woman about a quarter of a mile away from the institute in a heavily-wooded area. But the rescue wasn’t over just yet.

“She was having a hard time walking back because hypothermia had set in,” Hollett said. “We asked for an ambulance because her temperature was continuing to drop.”

Brown praised the work of the search crew in quickly finding the woman. “I am really pleased this resulted in a find.”

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