A German shepherd named Boss lost his bearings while chasing a raccoon on Galiano Island early Tuesday and plummeted off a 12-metre cliff into the sea.
Owner Judith Hamilton heard the commotion around midnight and saw her other dog, a border-collie named Bandit, looking over the cliff into the darkness. Then she heard the whines of 10-year-old Boss, who was near the water's edge.
Boss and Bandit were rescue dogs acquired by Hamilton while she lived in Bella Coola. Up country, they guarded her against bears. Now, it's otters and raccoons - including one she noticed perched in a tree Tuesday morning.
After she discovered Boss, Hamilton went to the phone and called "the world. I got everybody up."
Neighbour Calen Darnel, 51, responded to the call. Darnel, a member of the North Galiano Fire Department, wasn't put off by the sheer drop. He wore a headlamp, gloves and steel-toed boots and used a thick rope to lower himself down the vertical rock face.
"There are foot-holds and hand-holds here and there - without the rope there's no way I could have gotten down there," said Darnel, a nature photographer.
"I've done this kind of stuff before, since I was young. I looked down, analyzed it and said 'Yeah, I can do this,' " he added.
The dog didn't appear to be injured but was soaking wet and surrounded by seaweed, Darnel said. It seems likely the dog fell into the water and then scrambled onto the ledge.
Darnel scaled the cliff three times before he felt properly positioned to try a rescue.
He and Boss have been working on their relationship, Darnel said. Boss takes guarding seriously and doesn't welcome anyone, neighbours included, onto his turf until he knows them.
"He's probably the biggest German shepherd you've ever seen - he's huge," Darnel said. "I could tell he wasn't hurt, but he was scared."
Darnel was trying to figure out how to create a harness for the dog when word came that an RCMP boat was on the way.
While Darnel was dangling over the cliff, Hamilton had been calling everyone she knew to help get the 70-kilogram dog up the cliff. Finally, she called 911.
The RCMP said a constable would be able to come from North Pender and take man and dog to safety.
Boss was back to playing with Bandit on Tuesday.
"I gave him a bath because he smelled kind of weedy," Hamilton said.
She was grateful to all those who came to help.
"It was wonderful how they were all so concerned. I've been on the phone all day with people asking about how Boss is," she said.
The raccoon in the tree had a bird's eye view of the rescue operation. "It probably laughed all night long."
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