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Dog rescued below cliff, later expires

Possibly it was an elusive rabbit. Maybe it was a threatening coyote. Star, a 9-year-old black lab, is the only one who knows.

Despite the efforts of crews from North Whidbey Fire and Rescue, the dog was unable to live through a 75-foot fall off a bluff in the Sierra neighborhood Wednesday.

“I was looking all over this morning for my dog,” Star’s owner Peggy Townsdin said. “The only thing that’s helping me at all is that people came to help her.”

Star was a fifth birthday gift for Townsdin’s daughter, now 15.

“She’s just the greatest little dog,” Townsdin said.

Star suffered numerous broken bones in her back and could not be saved, she said.

Sierra resident Trevor Lawrence was walking his German shepherd mix down the beach when he spotted movement down the beach. He said his dog was not on a leash and he yelled for it to sit until he could quickly tie it to a drift log. He said he walked toward the object not knowing what it was.

“I thought it was dead at first,” Lawrence said. “Once I got close, it just kind of looked at me.”

After he found the dog, Lawrence called Animal Control at approximately 8:30 a.m., he said.

When Carol Barnes, an Island County animal control officer, received a phone call about a dog that had fallen off of a cliff, she said she knew it would not be easy.

“This was quite a nasty fall,” Barnes said.

When Barnes arrived at the dog, she found a large dog that was not moving and cold to the touch. The dog looked up at Barnes who quickly covered Star with a blanket. The dog was not growling or snapping, which some usually do out of pain, Barnes said.

When rescue crews arrived on the beach with a basket usually reserved for human patients, they quickly carried the pooch the quarter mile off of the beach to Barnes’ truck.

“It’s amazing what they do to rescue the dogs,” Barnes said.

Richard Cannon, the first firefighter on the scene, said this was an easy rescue compared to others he has done. He said he once had to rappel down the sheer face of a bluff to get to a great Dane and again to rescue a golden retriever.

“The cliffs get to be around 250 feet, and both times the dog got down a ledge and just stuck there,” Cannon said.

Cannon said the high angle rescues are difficult because dogs are squirmy and do not know he is there to help. He said he has to improvise harnesses to secure the dogs he plucks off the bluffs.

“She was probably running around and chasing rabbits,” Townsdin said. “She was probably having fun and didn’t know there was a cliff.”

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