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Firefighters rescue dog stuck on oceanside cliff

Firefighter Jeff Lee  prepares to lower Oso 100 feet to the beach. The Pilot/Jef Hatch
Firefighter Jeff Lee prepares to lower Oso 100 feet to the beach. The Pilot/Jef Hatch
Twelve-year-old Oso stood trapped on a narrow rock ledge 100 feet above Lone Ranch Beach Monday afternoon as his owners, Carol and Mike McNickols, looked up helplessly.

The German shepherd and black Labrador mix couldn’t go up – the steep hillside was covered with crumbling rock. The way down was equally impossible.

The couple had one choice – call 911. 

Members of the Brookings Fire Department quickly arrived. Fire Capt. Jeff Lee donned a safety harness and, with the help of fellow firefighters, slowly made his way down the steep cliffside to the ledge where Oso waited.

 Lee wrapped the dog in a modified sling, attached a safety line and slowly began backing his way down the sheer cliff to deliver Oso to his grateful owners.

“It’s awesome,” Carol gushed to the firefighters. “I can almost breath again. Awesome job.”

Earlier that afternoon the couple had set out on a leisurely stroll down Lone Ranch Beach, located about three miles north of Brookings. By the time they reached the south end of the beach, the unleashed Oso had wandered away from his owners and ended up at the top of the seaside cliffs.

According to Carol, Oso attempted to make his way straight down the cliffside to reach them rather than take the trail which he had used.

“In all the years we’ve come here he’s never done this,” she said. “It must be the first sign of old age.”

As the dog approached a particularly steep section of the cliff the loose rock began to cascade from under his feet and, Carol said, he slid halfway down the cliffside to a resting point some 100 feet above the beach where he was unable to move any further.

“He can’t get back up because the shale keeps crumbling under him,” she said as she waited for Lee to reach Oso.

“If he was anywhere else I’d call in Search and Rescue,” Fire Chief Bill Sharp said, “but I think we have the physical ability to get him.”

Lee, tied into a safety harness, was lowered by fellow firefighter Neil Watson and junior firefighter Chase Ferraccioli almost 100 feet from the top of the cliff.

The shale cliffs made footing treacherous, but Lee was able to make it to Oso without injury.

“Hardest part was relying on the rope,” Lee said. “Once you do that it’s all pretty easy from there. Having Neil on the other end of the rope made it much easier to trust.”

Lee wrapped the dog in a flexible fabric harness that is intended for the human form, which he modified to support Oso without any trouble.

Once Lee and Oso were tied into the rope, the crew at the top of the cliff lowered them the rest of the way to the beach and solid ground. 


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