RYE COVE — The rope rescue performed Wednesday high above the Clinch River could be classified as a practice run by some. The barking Great Pyrenees stranded on a rock ledge may have thought otherwise.
Five Gate City Fire Department members specially trained in rope-tech rescue were dispatched to the remote, rocky area near Route 65 to lift the large dog from a perch where it had been stranded since early Sunday.
Scott County Animal Control Officer Rick Barger said after initially checking on the dog and its location on Monday, he began searching for options to try and get to the dog. The dog was spotted by some people from across the valley.
“I think one of the big mysteries here is how in the world he got on that ledge, because that’s pretty high up,” said Barger, who speculated the Great Pyrenees could have been chasing another animal when it became stranded.
Officer Curtis Wininger of the GCFD made the descent about 175 feet down the mountain, anchored by a series of ropes, levers and pulleys operated by fellow department officers Capt. Richard Hartsock, Bo Person, Tracy Hobbs and Adam Templeton.
He was greeted by the male dog long before he was able to touch down on the ledge.
“I guess he was happy to see someone after being stranded for so long,” said Wininger, who sedated the dog shortly after getting his feet on the narrow ledge.
“It was important to make sure the dog was under control because you are talking about a 100-pound animal, and you get him halfway in the air and he starts wiggling or trying to get out, that puts the rescuer in danger.
“I can see why he stayed up there because from that vantage point on that small ledge, there was no way that he could have jumped down. I really can’t explain how he got down there.”
Wininger strapped the dog into the gurney basket, and his fellow officers then began the lengthy process of hoisting up both fireman and dog.
“We have a total of six members who are specially certified in this type of rescue,” said Hartsock. “And we are the only unit in the county that is currently able to perform this rope-tech procedure.”
He said the procedure to secure and rescue the dog was an opportunity to hone their rope skills in a mountainous environment, but the operation was more than just a regular public service call.
“I mean, we get calls all the time to try and rescue some animals, from some stranded in trees to others caught in other situations. The more practice we can get in, it helps, but I think this was an opportunity to help an animal that was in a no-win situation,” said Hartsock.
The dog, which was estimated to be about a year old, had no visible physical injuries after being briefly examined at the recovery area. It was taken to Gate City veterinarian David Redwine for further examination.
Barger says the animal will remain at the Scott County Animal Shelter facility in Midway for a period of seven days until someone comes forward to claim it.
Property owner Earl Hass, who first saw the dog from his home off Route 65 and telephoned the county animal control officer, has offered to give the dog a new home if no one comes forward.
“Any dog that goes through something like that — being stranded for days — deserves a good home, and I can let him have it. I may name him Cliff Hanger or Cliff for short,” said Hass.