First responders save dog stranded on Camas cliff

Firefighters say the small shepherd may have been trapped on a shelf 50 feet below Ostenson Canyon Road for two days

A scared dog stranded for days on the side of a Camas area cliff is safe today, thanks to local first responders.

Camas-Washougal Fire Department Battalion Chief Larry Larimer said that, although firefighters are not typically in the business of rescuing stranded animals, when a former volunteer stopped by the Camas fire station this morning and said neighbors had heard a dog barking somewhere off Northwest Ostenson Canyon Road near Northwest 18th Avenue since the July Fourth holiday, Larimer knew he wanted to help.

“Ordinarily we don’t do animal rescues because we’re busy with people,” Larimer said. “But we had the strong idea that the dog had gotten really frightened (by fireworks) and may have been there for two days … so we went out with Camas Police and animal control.”

The first responders looked around the area where neighbors reported hearing the dog over the past two days, but didn’t see or hear anything and were ready to turn back around, Larimer said.

“We thought something had stabilized the situation,” he said. “But then we heard a solitary bark.”

Although most rescues — of humans — require at least eight responders, Larimer said he didn’t want to have that many people out of the station for a non-human.

Instead of eight responders, Larimer and four of his firefighters from Engine 41, along with a Camas police officer and Rick Foster from the Camas-Washougal Animal Control Division, assisted in the dog’s rescue.

The dog, which Larimer believed to be some type of shepherd, did not look injured, but was stuck on a shelf about 50 feet below the road and nearly 30 feet up from the canyon floor.

“He probably had been frightened by fireworks,” Larimer guessed. “And he probably did fall, but there were no apparent injuries.”

Two firefighters strapped themselves into harnesses and helmets and the other responders helped lower them to the shelf 50 feet below the road. Larimer said the dog was too frightened and stressed out to let rescuers get anywhere near his neck or to take him the 20 or 30 feet to the canyon floor.

“He wasn’t too cooperative,” Larimer said of the dog. “He looked like he was probably sweet and friendly … but he was very frightened.”

The rescuers didn’t have a muzzle and the dog was trying to bite their hands, so, instead of lowering him to the ground, they fashioned a dog harness and pulled him back to the top.

The rescue itself proved tricky, Larimer said.

“It was very, very steep — almost 90-degrees and much steeper than anything we usually do, like at the (Lacamas) Potholes,” Larimer said.

Once they had the dog on safe ground, rescuers gave him some food and water and put him in a crate to be transported to the animal control shelter.

Larimer said that animal control has the dog now and is trying to reunite him with his owners. Although the pup had a collar on, he was much too frightened to let rescuers get anywhere near his neck, Larimer said.

“He was a black and tan, smallish shepherd. He didn’t seem like he would be the kind of dog that would bite … he was just stressed out from a crazy experience,” Larimer added. “I don’t blame him. I would be too, if I’d just spent two days on a little shelf.”