They were cold, wet, hungry and confused, but after four days stranded atop a Fraser Valley cliff, a pair of puppies are safe and sound.
Mission Search and Rescue was called to a rural area on Stave Lake Road in Mission to conduct the unusual operation on Sunday.
Rescuing animals is outside of the team’s mandate, but organizers decided to deploy when they became concerned a group of locals planned to head out into difficult terrain to locate the pups.
“It’s always a concern for us, as search and rescue,” said Mission SAR search manager Dean Osen. “We want to make sure that the public is safe.”
“That’s why we wanted to make sure the public knew we were coming out to help, and we did put it out to social media last night that we were going to help, no one go out, please be safe, we are trying to do our best.
Neighbour Emma Wilfert said she had heard the dogs howling from up on the steep embankment for days, adding that it’s not difficult to get trapped in the area.
“People or dogs go up into that area go into the bush because it doesn’t seem too rough, and then all of a sudden before they know it they are on this side of the mountain on a very steep cliff and they can’t get out,” she said.
Until Sunday, no one knew exactly how many or what kind of dogs were up there.
That question was answered Sunday afternoon: a pair of of 16-week-old female Saint Bernard crosses.
About 15 volunteers were involved in the rescue, and were carrying specialized dog harnesses for a rope rescue, if necessary.
PHOTOS: Puppies rescued from Mission cliff
“This is one of our first animal rescues,” Osen said.
“We’ve had some close calls where the dogs normally do come back after time, where we have gone out and rescued the dogs’ owners, and the dogs run off, but usually after 12 to 24 hours the dogs come back themselves.”
As it turned out, the special gear wasn’t needed. When rescuers reached the top of the cliff, they held out their jackets and the puppies jumped right in, the SAR team said.
The animals were then carried out of the backcountry safely and fed.
It remains unclear who the dogs belong to, however a veterinarian that examined them said their nails had been recently trimmed.
Osen said the team is still working out where to take the dogs for care until their ownership can be determined or until homes can be found for them.
“We’ve looked on a lot of the missing pets pages and nobody seems to have reported them,” added Wilfert.
“We have one neighbour down here who said a lady came looking, said she had lost two of her dogs, but we don’t know who that lady is, she didn’t leave a phone number.”