The call we received was for a dog over a cliff near the Cedar River Trailhead.
Arriving on scene, our first responder on scene was able to spot the dog, Gus. He was not visible from the top but thanks to a tracking collar he wore, the owners knew approximately where he was. One stayed in place and the other crossed the river to the trail on the other side and could see him from there.
The team set up an edge line to safely approach the undercut cliff and they quickly located the more exact location of the dog. He was in a fairly precarious spot and any movement set rocks loose under his feet and below him was a drop of about 200 feet to the river. The initial plan was to rappel down and temporarily secure the dog until additional equipment arrived. They had sufficient personal gear to do so but we would need a harness to safely lift the dog back to the top. The team explained this plan to the owner and it turned out he actually had a dog rescue harness, in his truck; a purchase made sometime prior at the request of his wife — just in case.
With the harness the team had everything on scene to effect the rescue. One responder rappelled down and temporarily secured the dog before fitting the harness and prepping for the actual raise. At this point it was just three responders, though they felt they had enough equipment and safety accounted for to take care of the situation. The dog was about 60 pounds and they were only about 5 feet below the edge, so the other two responders just hauled the dog up by hand while the responder over the edge lifted from the bottom. After the dog was back to the top a leash was attached and Gus walked it back out the road. The responder over the edge prusiked back up his rappel line, since they hadn’t set up an actual haul system.
Between the owner having a GPS tracking collar and a harness, and the team having sufficient and appropriate personal gear to quickly secure the dog, this was a pretty quick rescue. Barring the unusually prepared owner, especially the GPS Collar, we would probably have had to rig edge lines every 50-100 feet to search around half a mile of the overhung cliff. On top of that, he was definitely tired and the unstable ground he was giving way every time he moved.
He’s extremely lucky to have caught that ledge and hung on, and even more so that he has such prepared owners. Time was of the essence on this one and we’re glad to have won the race.
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