Devoted dogs in cliff-top rescue

2014-10-27 00:00

A DEVOTED canine couple survived at least a week on a tiny ledge on a sheer cliff face in Kloof.

And they were rescued — rake thin and dehydrated –—after the male dog heard rescue experts on a nearby training exercise and “yelped just like a human cry for help”.

Jon Sargood, chairman of the expert volunteer group RescueTech, said the dogs had fallen onto the two-metre-wide rock ledge, somehow without major injury, in one of the most remote, and sheer, parts of the Kloof Gorge, “maybe a week or even weeks ago”.

While mounting a high-angle rope exercise for his team, Sargood said he heard the dogs moments after learning that the missing police dog, Chaka, had been found dead nearby, in Mariannhill.

“We found it ironic that we were able to save a dog’s life almost to the minute that we heard that this huge search for the police dog was over in sad circumstances,” he said.

Having gone missing while pursuing suspects near a factory 10 days before, Chaka’s body was discovered near a stream. The search had featured helicopters, the Rottweiler’s former 12-year-old owner; and a R5 000 reward.

Sargood said the team abandoned their training exercise and abseiled to the ledge.

A female dog was found unconscious, “and the male sat there calm as anything, and allowed us to put him into an animal harness. He didn’t cry; he didn’t bite. But when we got him to the top, he began to make a big fuss, clearly concerned that we might not also rescue his partner.”

Another team member said the dog — of “indeterminate breed” — was initially allowed to lap at only small amounts of water, as his dehydration was so severe that sudden drinking could put his system in shock. The animals wore no collars.

Sargood said a Kloof vet was forced to put down the female, due to critical effects of starvation and dehydration.

He said the male was recovering well at the Kloof SPCA, but that no owner had yet been identified.

“An animal rescue is always rewarding,” he said. “Especially when you think what this fellow must have gone through, day after day. They were very thin, wasted. And that part of the gorge is so remote I’d be surprised if one person was there every two months. They would certainly have perished had we not happened to choose that spot.”

But Sargood said it remained a mystery how the pair had wound up on the ledge, which was 50 metres from the top of the cliff, and over 100 metres from the bottom.

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