Dale Rahim said he won’t forget the sight of his dog Harley scrabbling at the edge of the Abyss and then tumbling down out of sight into the darkness several metres below.
Rahim and his family were hiking on the Extension Ridge Trail on Tuesday, July 20, when they came upon the geological feature called the Abyss, a large fissure in the bedrock several metres deep. The crack appears on the northern end of the ridge and is about half a metre wide and poses a hazard for anyone or anything that happens to stumble into it.
Harley fell in after its leash slipped out of his owner’s hand.
The little nine-pound Chihuahua-Papillon cross at first responded to Rahim’s calls, but eventually went silent as the dog’s owners waited for a Nanaimo Fire Rescue rope rescue team to arrive. After about 30 minutes without hearing their pet, they feared the worst.
The dog had been down in the crevice for about 45 minutes when firefighters arrived and wasn’t visible, but when Jared Anaka roped down in the Abyss he soon spotted Harley. The dog was too afraid to come close to the firefighter, who was hoped to collar the animal with a pole with an adjustable loop that the fire department had purchased specifically for such predicaments.
Hoping to draw Harley closer, the dog’s owners and firefighters were about to try luring the animal with a pepperoni stick when Anaka yelled, “I’ve got him!”
Harley was hauled up with a rope tied to his harness and was back in Rahim’s arms shortly after 2:30 p.m.
“He’s terrified, but he looks pretty good,” Rahim said.
In spite of Harley appearing to have come out of his ordeal in the Abyss physically unscathed, Rahim said he would be getting the dog checked out by a veterinarian right away.
“I’m surprised – I’m more shocked – we were preparing everybody,” Rahim said.
Firefighters successfully rescued dogs from the Abyss as recently as February and March and have continually recommended that owners keep their dogs leashed on the trail. Three other dogs were rescued from the crevice in 2020, but no dogs are known to have fallen down the Abyss prior to then.
Capt. Dorian Boudrot said it was a tight squeeze for Anaka to work in, but the rescue came off without any issues.
“We recently just purchased a new piece of equipment because we’ve been having ongoing problems up here … and it came in real handy today,” Boudrot said. “Firefighter Anaka was able to get down there, get this around the dog and we were able to pull him up. No injuries on the dog and it went really well … if people could please, when they come up here, be conscientious of your dogs. They will fall down there and we’d hate to see them get hurt, or worse, a child falls down there.”
Rahim said he was impressed by the professionalism and skills of the rescue team, grateful, and that he never expected a rope rescue team to respond to save his dog, but he also had a few words for Harley too.
“You’re back. Oh, my gosh you’re back. This is unbelievable. You’ve been to the depths of a cave that nobody else has,” he said.
Nanaimo Fire Rescue team at the Abyss on Extension Ridge Trail where a small chihuahua papillon cross has fallen down the rock fissure the trail feature is named for. #Nanaimo @NanaimoBulletin pic.twitter.com/SNWpd8nk5X— Chris Bush (@ChrisBushphotog) July 20, 2021