At 15.30hrs on Sunday 13th June we were called out by South Wales Fire Brigade to assist in the rescue of two 11 year old Springer Spaniel sibling bitches who had fallen down a rift at about 12.00hrs Sunday.

Photos now online - click here

We organised a small team and took equipment over in the land rover and cars to meet the fire crew and were then guided to the nearest we could get cars which was some 2 k from the incident site above Blaenrhondda - in the area we have undertaken several dog, and a sheep, rescues before. We then transported kit and team members along the rough track to the site arriving at about 17:30.The dog owners were present onsite along with some more fire crew and a couple of walkers.

Both dogs had vanished down a rift (which, typically, had been completely covered). They were in separate sections and we could see one dog, Phoebe, about 9m down. The fire crew had previously cleared some of the top and had made an attempt but it was too tight. The second dog, Sadie, could not be seen but could be heard. Owing to the time we decided to go first for the dog we could see and started to enlarge the rift about 2m to one side of her. Initial inspection had shown that the second dog was somewhere in a much narrower section about 8m further along the rift from Sadie. It was obvious that this site would require heavier digging equipment to go from above but it was hoped that we could approach her from along the rift where Phoebe was trapped.

It looked as if the rift might widen lower down - as they sometimes do - and eventually a descent was attempted. The rift did not widen and we needed to remove some more rock to get our team member back to the surface. The rift was wider towards the dog but was blocked for about 2m down by a column of shattered rock. A second attempt was tried closer to this column, again it got too tight. We then decided to remove the rock. We had taken the quadpod and this made belaying and rope handling much easier as the head was some 2.5m above the ground.

After the column was removed more work was required before we could almost reach Phoebe but could not attach the dog catcher pole. A team member managed to go into the rift head down and clip a carabineer and sling into her collar. Phoebe was manhandled and hauled to the surface at 22.00hrs. We had of course lost daylight and had no choice but to stand down for the night.

By 11.00hrs Monday we were back with some fresh faces and a Kango and generator. The fire service arrived with a tender and the Argocat and we transported gear and people back to the site

We started clearing above where we thought Sadie was. She was now giving a regular 'woof' and we started a shaft about 2m uphill. After digging a shaft about 1m deep we could get into a position to see her. She was about 9m down and stuck fast in a very narrow section. It was difficult to see her and it was several hours before we could decide which way she was facing. We started a second shaft about 2m the other side of her location where the rift widened out a little. As work progressed it was seen, from the first shaft, that above Sadie - almost to the surface - was a void but any attempt to dig here showered debris directly onto her so we decided to carry on dropping both shafts until we could attempt to get down and use the dog pole.

Two people tried and one managed to get about 4m down. We then attempted to attach the dog pole. It proved impossible even working from both sides. Reinforcements arrived and a smaller team member made more attempts. The second time she got even closer to Sadie but there was no chance of actually reaching her. Sadie had now been trapped for over 30hrs. We assume Sadie had become wedged after the initial fall but we could not see where she had originally gone down. It seemed the only chance we had was to hook her collar. We made a hook from a snap gate carabineer. The underground team managed to hook her again and Sadie was pulled out. As she reached the bottom of our shaft it was obvious that she was in severe distress and the collar was cut off as soon as she was in hand. By the time she arrived at the surface she had stopped breathing. Then something remarkable took place. A firefighter cupped his hands around her nose and started mouth to nose while another started compression. And they got her back. After a few minutes she started to breathe spontaneously and her eyes began to move. We gave her oxygen and she began to stabilize.

After so much hard work by the team and the fire crew, with Sadie hanging on for so long, it is difficult to describe the sense of loss and then elation as she breathed. There were more than a few tears shed - and not just from the owners. Time out was 19.30hrs.

After she had rested for a short while she was taken by the fire crew to the car park and then down to the vets. The police were informed, at 21.30hrs Monday that the incident was closed.

Latest news is that Sadie is poorly but seems to be responding. There is a worry about her back and initially it was thought she may have suffered brain damage but it seems she is now responding. Once again the team was successful in recovering dogs alive. This time we came very close. Sadie may not completely recover or indeed survive but at least we gave her a fighting chance when she had had none. Phoebe is reported as acting as if nothing had happened.

I have been asked to pass on thanks to all the team by the owners. They are extremely grateful for our efforts and very impressed by our dedication and skill.

Contact has been made with the owners and Sadie is progressing well. She has been up for a pee and is responding well. Still on a drip she is not quite ready for another adventure (on a lead we would hope).


Jopo, 15 June 2010