I was standing on a path several hundred feet above Eaton Canyon last week in the evening hours coaxing someone to climb down off a steep cliff and wondering if I should call the local search and rescue team. Typical Eaton Canyon story right?
Except instead of a wayward teenager trying to reach the upper falls, I was trying to get a very shaggy, scared and raggedy-looking dog to come down to me for help.
It was just about the last thing in the world I was hoping to be doing: I was hiking in the early evening hours after Day Six of WindstormWatch 2011, the first time I had taken a break since the winds started blowing.
So waiting for a dog to come down from a cliff as it got progressively darker and later, and I got hungrier and colder, was not high on the list of things I wanted to be doing.
I had encountered the ragamuffin little mutt on the way up - he looked hungry and a little wary of human contact and I was worried he was a stray, possibly one who got lost during the storm. However, he was heading steadily down the trail, and I had just passed a dog-walking hiker who looked shaggy and unkempt enough himself to be the dog's owner.
So I let the dog go and forgot about it, until 45 minutes later when I was on the way back down, I rounded a curve and saw him, this time heading uphill. Shortly behind him was an older gentleman with two dogs who was doing his best to round him up. Together we tried to get the little guy, but stuck in his own terror, he fled from us over the edge of the trail to hide in a bush on the side of a cliff.
I assessed my own climbing abilities and decided it would be best not to go try to retrieve him. And so I waited, calling and whistling, and hoping he might come down.
After 15 minutes or so, I called a local search and rescue team member I know and asked for advice. In short, it was 1) do you have a granola bar to offer him? and 2) if not, please, please, do not attempt to climb anything that you are not capable of climbing.
I also spoke with a firefighter at the station up at Henninger Flats, who told me he had a flat tire and would not be able to come out to help try to get the dog. He promised to look for him in the morning and also repeated the line about not climbing up to the dog about 10 times.
After 45 minutes of waiting and hoping the dog would come down, I started to get seriously cold, dressed in a thin long-sleeve t-shirt and shorts as I was. I left, but felt tremendously guilty. I posted a lost dog notice on Craigslist (and this site) but had little faith anything would come of it. I didn't even have a photo.
The next day I hoped to make time to go up there again (this time with a slab of cooked bacon or something like it), but was too busy.
On Thursday, I again was thinking about the dog and whether he might still be there, when I got a call from an unfamiliar number. It was the firefighter up at Henninger Flats: they had found the dog, taken him to their station up top and fed him and bathed him.
I got them to send me photos. I set up another Craigslist ad and nothing so far. This should be considered my other formal notice: if you think this dog is yours, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is safe and ready to come home.
But if no owner should turn up, I have a feeling he is going to be all right: I got another call from a firefighter Saturday night, and the buzz up at the station is that if nobody claims him, they would love to have him be the station dog up at Henninger Flats.