Friday, January 24, 2014

Technical Dog Rescue

I've been a member of the Bellingham Mountain Rescue Council since 2011. Due to my responsibilities as a guide, a manager of the American Alpine Institute and a father with two young children, I often am not available for the "exciting" backcountry rescues. I tend to be more involved in things that don't require a rapid response.

On Tuesday morning I was sitting in front of my computer when a call came in for a rescue. But this wasn't a normal rescue. Indeed, it wasn't even to be the rescue of a human being. A dog fell off of a cliff the night before just a few miles from the AAI office in the Chuckanut Mountains.

As I wasn't on the schedule to be somewhere, I was able to respond to this unusual SAR mission.

One thing that I've learned doing mountain rescue missions is that nobody really knows anything about anything when you arrive on the scene. The first reports were that someone heard the dog barking at the base of the cliff. The second report was that nobody was sure if the dog was down there or alive. Then we heard that there was someone down there with the dog. Then we heard that there was no one down there.

The approach took about fifteen minutes. When we arrived at the top of the cliff, a distressed dog owner explained that the dog fell off the cliff the night before. There was indeed a climber named Joe at the base of the cliff that rapped down and found the dog.

Apparently the dog had difficulty moving and had blood on her muzzle. She had backed into a little cubby hole in the side of the cliff to hide. Joe was able to extract her while he waited for us to arrive.

We quickly set-up a system to lower TJ, a Bellingham firefighter, to the base of the cliff. He was able to evaluate the dog, rig a little harness for her out of webbing and a duffle bag, and connect her to himself.

Then we pulled him back up.

The author giving hauling system directions to the team.

TJ with the dog as he approached the top of the cliff.

While we set up our systems, a dozen other people showed up to help. These included firefighters, a vet, animal control people, and a rescue team from the Washington State Animal Response Team. The animal people were able to put the dog on a stretcher and get her out of there before we were able to break down our systems.

It appears that the dog had a punctured lung and perhaps a spinal injury. The cliff was over 100-feet tall, but there were lots of bushes and little ledges that might of slowed her down. She survived a freezing night, and a trip back up the cliffside. We believe that she'll recover...but unless the owner contacts us we might never know...

Following is some raw footage taken by the Whatcom County SAR Council of the dog as she reached the trailhead:

It was an incredibly unusual mission, and a very cool thing to be a part of.

--Jason D. Martin

1 comment:

PEEPs said...

Thanks for your work out there Jason! It was great to have you as the leader in the field.