“It never occurred to me that I would see her alive again,” said David Schelske of West Linn, whose dog plunged 150 feet down a cliff during a Christmas afternoon hike in the Columbia Gorge. The three-year old yellow Lab, Sandy, was trapped on a narrow ledge as the Oregon Humane Society’s animal rescue team deployed to save her.
The eight-person volunteer crew arrived at the Eagle Creek trailhead at 7 pm last night and worked throughout the pitch black Christmas evening to bring Sandy to safety. Volunteer John Thoeni rappelled 150 feet down a sheer cliff to locate the dog, who miraculously had suffered only minor injuries. The dog was trapped on a tiny, inaccessible ledge about 70 feet above the creek.
The ledge was too small for Thoeni to climb onto, so he fitted a rescue harness on the frightened dog and the two were hoisted to safety by the other members of the rescue team. Sandy was reunited with her owner and the OHS team hiked back down the trail with the pair, arriving at the trailhead at about 11:30 pm. Sandy was able to walk down the trail on her own power. “What happened was incredibly bad luck, but then we had incredibly good luck when she was saved,” said Schelske.
Earlier that day, Sandy was apparently startled by something on the trail and broke into a run that snapped her leash. Schelske saw her go around a corner on a trial, but then found no sign of her until he hiked to the bottom of the cliff and spotted her stranded on an isolated ledge, unreachable without specialized climbing gear. The OHS rescue team, said Schelske, “is an amazing, dedicated group of people. I wish I could give them all a big hug.”
The treacherous Eagle Creek trail has been the site of two similar dog rescues earlier this year by the OHS rescue team, which receives no tax dollars for its work.
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The Oregon Humane Society is the Northwest's oldest and largest humane society. OHS receives no tax dollars and relies entirely on donations to support its adoption, education, and animal cruelty investigation programs. Visit http://www.oregonhumane.org for more information.