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Dog rescued in cliffhanger near Oak Harbor

Richard Anderson embraces Sophie after she was rescued. The 7-year-old Jack Russell terrier spent a week stranded on a bluff.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Richard Anderson embraces Sophie after she was rescued. The 7-year-old Jack Russell terrier spent a week stranded on a bluff.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Thanks to two eagle-eyed members of the Whidbey Audubon Society, a small terrier was rescued Thursday after spending more than a week trapped on a narrow ledge overlooking a bluff.

Bird watchers Martha Olsen and Verleen Boyer were observing the burrows used by Pigeon Guillemots when they noticed Sophie, a 7-year-old white Jack Russell terrier, on the ledge near several burrows. The bluff where Sophie was trapped is located off West Beach Road about a mile south of the boat launch at the end of Hastie Lake Road.

Sophie had disappeared from owners Margaret and Richard Anderson on the evening of June 30 after they fed her at their West Beach Road home. Richard Anderson said he searched the neighborhood for Sophie but didn't have any luck finding her. The couple searched the beach on Sunday in hopes of finding any sign of their missing mutt, but, again, they didn't have any luck.

"We walked the beach Sunday calling for her but we didn't hear a thing," Anderson said soon after firefighters arrived at a neighbor's house to begin the search for the dog.

Olsen said she had noticed the burrows on the bluff, but wondered why no pigeons were using them. Eventually she observed the stranded terrier and called for help.

Sophie was trapped roughly a third of the way down a bluff approximately 200-feet high.

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue firefighter Adam Shelly rappelled down the cliff to reach Sophie.

"She was a little scared but she was ready to leave," Shelly said. He had some water with him that he gave to her. He added the terrier had some trepidation about going into the bag he had with him to carry her, but he was finally able to capture her. He theorized Sophie felt it was better to go into the bag than remain on the cliff.

He rappelled the remainder of the way down the cliff where Anderson was waiting with a bowl of water for Sophie. The terrier was scared, had lost a lot of weight and was shaking but she was happy to be in the loving arms of Anderson.

Two aid vehicles, a brush truck and a rescue truck along with several volunteer and paid firefighters responded to the dog rescue. Joe Biller, training officer for North Whidbey Fire and Rescue, said such incidents provide valuable experience for firefighters.

Firefighters arrived on scene at approximately 10:45 a.m. and completed the terrier rescued by noon.

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