Friday, November 1, 2013

THE RESCUE by Marilyn

One moment all three dogs were frantically barking at a squirrel in the dead tree just outside of the natural fence on our property. And then Lily slipped through the fence to get a better crack at the squirrel. It was the first time she’d done that. She didn’t come back when I called her like she would normally do.

The next bark I heard was not of the “I’m gonna get you Mr. Squirrel” variety, but more of a “Holy Crap!! What did I just do!?!”

We knew that there was a steep cliff in the pasture next to our house, but we’ve never really explored it. Looking up at it from the road below our house was something we were waiting to do when the rainy season was over. The clay road was so slippery it was almost impossible to hike without cleats or crampons – we had neither. There were random rocks in the center of the road, but if you missed one of them, you were down … and dirty.

We’d only gone into the pasture itself once. The growth was overwhelming – 6 foot high grass and hidden stumps --  and you actually walked on a series of spongy roots, rather than firm ground. So when I heard the panic in Lily’s bark, I knew right away that she’d either fallen off the cliff or gotten stuck in the root system, or both.

Paul and I quickly changed into jeans and boots for the rescue. We were going to do our best to avoid snakes while we were saving Lily. If we could save her.

We scrambled down the road, slipping and sliding on the wet clay. Sometimes there were sturdy enough branches on the side of the road to hold onto; sometimes not. We got to a clearing below the pasture. Lily had stopped barking, so we had no idea whether we were near her or not. Below us, the cliff dropped down another several hundred feet to the river. Above us the cliff rose -- straight, slippery mud. We would not be able to attempt the rescue from this location. And Lily wasn’t barking at all.

“I’m going into the pasture from our side yard,” I told Paul. He was trying to find some way up the steep sides of the cliff.

I got to the side yard and slipped through a hole in the fence. 
I’d watched Sacha do this many times, but of course she is a 12 pound dog and I’m … not. I headed through the dense, eye-level weeds, calling Lily. She started barking again. He barks didn’t sound like pain barks, which was a relief. I remembered reading Emily’s post about rescuing the puppies ( It seemed like Lily had fallen down to the same ledge as the puppies had. I started praying that she stayed there. I kept calling to her to let her know help was on the way, although I had no idea what I was going to do.

I continued crunching through the weedy roots (or rooty weeds) until, boom, I was no longer on solid ground. I’d arrived at the edge of the cliff and I was caught in tangled roots up to my hips. Abbott and Costello came to mind. Flattening myself out I was able to extract my right leg, but my left boot was caught in a jumble of thick roots. My foot could come out, but I’d be darned if I was going to leave my boot behind.

Right about then, Paul showed up. He looked over the fence and saw me trapped in the weeds. “You okay?”

“Yeah, just a little … stuck,” I said. Lily barked again. She sounded close by.

 “I think I know where Lily is,” he said, coming to rescue me.

“Me too,” I said, “but first I need to get my boot uncaught.” I wiggled and jiggled until the boot came free.

“Crawl on your belly until you get to firm ground,” said Paul. He reached out and grabbed my hand and I slithered, mud-covered, back into the yard. We both called to Lily. “We’re coming, girl,” said Paul, “hold on a few minutes.”

Paul went to the Tico house to get an old, home-made, wooden ladder. I went inside and got some rope and also our nylon laundry bag. I figured we could put Lily in it and haul her up the ladder in case she was injured. I stopped to take a sip of water and realized my hands were shaking.

Paul dragged the ladder through the fence and Sacha and I tromped behind him. He got to the edge of the cliff and we were able to see Lily, about eight feet below, on the same ledge as the puppies had been. He lowered the ladder and kept poking the end of it until he felt solid ground. Lily looked up at us eagerly, a hopeful, timid wag of her tail.

Paul lashed the top rung of the ladder to a stump but before he began to climb down, Lily started to climb up. “C’mon, girl,” we reassured her, “you can do it.” She got up about two rungs and chickened out, sliding back down to the ledge.

After she’d made a few more attempts, Paul decided to go down and get behind her. Sacha stood at the top of the ladder, wagging her tail in encouragement. At the bottom of the ladder, Paul positioned Lily, putting his hands behind her rear haunches to support her. Up, up she climbed, with me and Sacha cheering her on.

She got to the top and made her way through the fence to the yard, trotting up to the patio as if nothing had happened.

As I peeled off my muddy jeans in the laundry room with still shaking hands, I heard Lily’s familiar, muffled bark coming from the other room: “Muwff, muwff.” She had her beloved orange ball in her mouth and was ready to play. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.