A Chico woman's dog is dead after an encounter with a mountain lion in Upper Bidwell Park.
The Chico State student said her dog saved her and her friend's lives.
Hiking in Upper Bidwell Park, you may hear the leaves rustle from time to time. Rarely do you see what's making the noise, let alone something big making that noise. But Rachel Athos, her 53-pound lab and pit bull mix Lexi, and a friend, did.
Saturday afternoon, Yahi trail, near Brown's hole, they had a close encounter with a mountain lion.
“[It was] crouched over, eyes dilated, and ears back… within an arm’s length away from myself and my roommate,” Athos said.
“Within a split second I was being thrown to the ground from my dog taking my feet out from running so fast,” Athos said.
Lexi, who was leading the trail, ran to the back, putting herself in between the large mammal and the girls.Athos and her friend then walked ten minutes uphill, and didn't look back. Eventually they ran into two mountain bikers.
“It was then that we heard a commotion between the mountain lion and my dog and what was its last yelp for us,” Athos said. “It was the loudest I've ever heard her in my life. The tone was definitely that she was going [away].”
Athos and her friend called Chico Police were transferred to a park ranger, who showed up half an hour later.
Chico Park Ranger Lisa Barge briefly searched the area with Athos' friend. There was no sign of Lexi.
But Sunday called for a search for Lexi.
A group of ten walked for miles up and down Yahi trail.
“It's a little bittersweet. I didn't find her, we didn't find her, but at least I didn't have to see her in a bad state. My last image of her will be of her running and protecting us,” Athos said.
Protection was the reason Athos got Lexi, and Lexi was the reason they started going to Upper Bidwell. It became their happy place.
Athos says she'll go back someday. After all, she's still here.
“I feel like we are alive today because my dog loved me more than herself,” Athos said.