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Daring cliff rescue


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Above, a 20-metre cliff face.

Below, the raging Waiohine Gorge in flood.

There was no way 18-month old border collie Jed was going to make it safely off the narrow ledge where he’d fallen on his own, thought owner Alex Norman.

The Greytown pair had set off into the bush late on Sunday evening.

Though it wasn’t Jed’s first foray into the bush, it was his first time scenting a deer, Norman said.
“[Hunting is] just something I’ve got into recently.”

The pair had given up after the deer was spooked and they were heading home at about 6pm.

It was wet, it was cold, and it was dark.

They were just nearing the carpark when Jed ran ahead, followed by a yelp.

It took Norman a few minutes to figure out where Jed had disappeared to when he found him over the ledge of cliff, about 20 metres down on a narrow ledge, the Waiohine River below in flood.

Jed spent about 30 minutes trying to climb up the rocky bank before settling down, while a worried Norman watched on.

At this point, he realised he had been gone longer than expected and his partner Helena Clark would likely be worried, so he made the difficult decision to leave Jed in search of cell coverage.

“Jed realised he wasn’t going anywhere [so was sitting down].”

Clark was worried and called the police concerned about whether Norman himself might end up down the hill in his rescue efforts.

Police sought the assistance of Masterton Fire Brigade who are skilled and equipped for line rescue.

The rescue team was led by Station Officer Mike Cornford and consisted of five fire officers and police search and rescue controller Sergeant Tony Matheson.

Line rescue jobs, particularly those involving animals, are not common, Matheson said, so it was a good opportunity for the team to practise.

“It was great to help those people out and it was an operational training opportunity for the fire service team.

“We are lucky to have [them] trained to respond to such events.”

He said the team went ahead with the rescue because the access was good, and it would have been dangerous for Norman to rescue him on his own.

The rescue of the dog took about an hour and involved an abseil in the dark in poor weather.

The rescuer attached a harness the dog and they were then belayed up the bluff system by the rescue team, with Jed expressing his thanks with few face licks.

Clark and Norman were both impressed with how smoothly the rescue went and said how grateful they were to those involved.

“I was pretty surprised,” Norman said.

“I thought ‘it’s just a dog’ – you don’t think it’s serious enough for them to respond but they took it really seriously.

“We are really thankful for all the people who helped.”

The pair were both “shattered” having only got home late on Sunday night, but they were relieved to be reunited – Jed’s escapade had shaved a few years off their lives.

Jed got the all-clear from the vets yesterday, escaping with only a minor strain and was happily playing fetch while his owners recovered.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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