WAVELAND — A hiking group’s afternoon outing to Shades State Park took a dramatic turn earlier this week when one of their dogs jumped over a railing and fell at least 20 feet before it was rescued by firefighters.
“I just want to tell them how grateful I am that they stopped for a dog,” said Tracie Hillock, whose five-year-old hound mix, Pablo, was hoisted to safety.
Hillock and her friend, Brittany, and six children ranging in age from 6-15, who are from the Indianapolis area, went hiking during a camping trip Tuesday in the Pine Hills Nature Reserve with Pablo and Hillock’s chocolate lab, Mason.
“We were just so happy to get out of the house and enjoy Mother Nature,” Hillock said.
As they hiked back to their cabin late in the afternoon, Mason suddenly hopped over the railing of a wooden staircase, but turned around when she realized how steep the terrain was.
Pablo jumped after her, plunging down to a ledge that broke another 60-foot fall. The dogs had been taken off their leashes on the sparsely populated trail, but were wearing shock collars.
“The dog did exactly what it needed [to do.] It froze,” said Misha Anderson, director of the Animal Welfare League of Montgomery County, who was dispatched to assist after the group called 911.
It took more than an hour for Anderson to find the group along the trail, where cell phone service is usually poor. The children had been taken back to the cabin with the other dog.
As darkness neared, more than a dozen volunteer firefighters from Waveland and Alamo arrived with a set of ropes, walking to the bottom of the trail in hopes of being able to reach Pablo.
“That was going to be impossible,” said Waveland fire chief Nathan Poynter, one of the responding firefighters who spent another hour helping set up the rope by flashlight.
With the entire group holding the ropes, Alamo firefighter Cody Hoskins repelled down to retrieve the dog, which had spent about five hours on the ledge.
The dog appeared to be uninjured, but Hillock took it to a veterinarian for X-rays after returning from the trip.
“He’s extra special. He means everything to me,” Hillock said by phone from outside the vet’s office.
Pablo had belonged to Hillock’s son, Jayden, who died three years ago at 17.
Hillock praised Anderson for her assistance and plans to send a thank-you letter to the firefighters, who she wants to see have more lighting available for rope rescues.
Waveland’s fire department recently purchased additional equipment for rope rescues and is set for training later this year to become certified in open-air rope rescues.