August 28, 2008 · Updated 1:23 PM
Trapped on a ledge 65 feet down a cliff face, above a sheer 100-foot drop to the river would be a terrible way to die. Especially in the rain, in the dark.
Thanks to the heroes in the Arlington Fire Department, the Snohomish County Search and Rescue team and several other rescue units who first responded to our call to 911 on Thursday evening, this was not the fate of our dog Copper.
Copper chased a raccoon along the edge of the cliff and didnt realize that the raccoon trail led over the edge. When she did not show up for supper, we feared the worst. Coppers sister, Petra, showed us where Copper had gone over the edge. The raccoon sitting snickering up in a tree showed us how. Her frightened whine when we searched close to that edge verified that Copper was alive and couldnt come to us.
My husband wanted to go down after her, but I weigh less than he does. So I tied myself into a piece of climbing rope we had and gingerly went over the edge to try to reach her. She was too far down and I couldnt get back up. The edge where I went down was wet and steeply sloped. My husband, wisely, decided it was time to call in more experienced help.
The response was quick and thorough I dont know how many units showed up to rescue the lady stuck over the cliff and her dog, but there were quite a few. They were able to get me up, then sent a technical climber over the edge for Copper. He was able to reach her, but she was too frightened to come to him. He was wearing a miners lamp on his climbing helmet and must have looked like a blinding bright light with a pair of arms coming out of nowhere. He could tell that the ledge was wide enough for her to be safe and that she was moving around apparently not seriously hurt. At 11:30 p.m. we abandoned the effort for the night. Deputy Chief Tom Cooper of the Arlington Fire Department promised to get help for Copper the next day.
I spent a mostly sleepless night. Copper, in the cold and rain, probably did, too. When I turned the porch light on about 4 a.m., she cried and cried.
Since the rescue team could not come back on taxpayer time to save only an animal, Chief Cooper put together a group of off-duty volunteers, including some who had helped the night before. Because of how far down Copper was, it required about eight people to make sure that the rescue was done safely. Danny E., an experienced dog person for Snohomish County Search and Rescue, was part of the team.
At the advice of Coppers breeder in Texas, I had been wearing a bandana around my neck to collect my scent. Danny took food and the bandana down with him. His patience and skill were remarkable. He gave Copper plenty of time to come to him and then fed and petted her. He said that the bandana was what reassured her enough to trust him. Finally, after she had climbed into his lap, he tied her into a harness, giving her plenty of time to calm down at each step. Once she was secure, the crew pulled them both up.
You will understand our gratitude, relief and joy to see her come walking up over the cliff edge in her harness beside Danny, bandana tied to her collar. It was by then nearly 3 p.m. Friday afternoon. She was muddy and wet to the skin, shivering with cold, and very thirsty, but she was OK. A visit to the vet later (after a hot bath and a nap) verified that she had no broken bones or internal bleeding.
I cannot begin to express our gratitude to the people who helped save Copper. This includes not only the rescue crews, but the people all over the world who were praying for us and giving advice. We in Snohomish County are very, very lucky to have such dedicated, selfless, and skilled men and women assisting us in times of trouble. The rescue volunteers modestly dismissed our thanks. We have dogs, too, said one of them. We couldnt just leave her there.
Margi and Terry Layman