Amazing tale of dog rescue
Published: May 16, 2007 | 6213th good news item since 2003
THE desperate two-week survival of a missing dog on cliffs near Combe Martin has been hailed as truly amazing by rescuers.
Four-year-old Bush’s disappearance on April 25 had sparked a huge search effort by concerned villagers and the local Coastguard to no avail.
But a fortnight later, against all odds, the starving Staffordshire bull terrier was plucked to safety by an RAF helicopter from Chivenor.
“I couldn’t believe she was still alive,” said winchman Sgt Mark Lean, who was lowered 200 feet down cliffs in high winds to retrieve the animal after the helicopter’s thermal imaging camera had indicated signs of life.
“The poor thing was stuck in a tight crevasse and I had to coax her out with a chicken sandwich,” he added.
Hypothermic, emaciated and extremely dehydrated, Bush was taken to the Market Vets in South Molton, where she spent four days recovering before being picked up by her elated owners, Margie and Hugh Brett from Witney, near Oxford, on Saturday.
“I couldn’t believe it when they told me Bush had be found alive and they were going to send the helicopter out,” said Mrs Brett, 62, who drove back to North Devon four times during the two-week ordeal to search for her missing dog.
“Everyone from Combe Martin and the surrounding area has been so kind – I really am at a loss for words to describe how brilliant they have been.
“Bush was so overjoyed with excitement when we got her home and is now putting on weight fast and settling down,” she added.
Mr and Mrs Brett had been picnicking on cliffs at Holdstone Down when their pet vanished from sight.
The frantic couple went for help at the Tourist Information Centre in Combe Martin, where staff reported the incident to the Coastguard and put them in touch with Diana Lewis of local animal rescue charity, North Devon Animal Ambulance.
Pictures of Bush were put up all over Combe Martin and provoked an amazing response from villagers, the Coastguard and even private tourist boats that scoured the coast for the missing dog.
Following various unconfirmed sightings during the two weeks, Bush was eventually spotted alive – 11 days into her ordeal – by two climbers at Sherrycombe Falls.
“The climbers managed to abseil down to reach her but got into difficulties with the incoming tide and had to be rescued themselves and were unable to take the animal with them,” said Mrs Lewis, who helped Mr and Mrs Brett to co-ordinate the search.
“When we heard Bush was still alive, we knew we had to get her back. The Coastguard said it was impossible to attempt a rescue by sea and called the search and rescue team at Chivenor, who didn’t hesitate for a second.
“I’ve seen some wonderful rescues before but never one that has involved so many people in such a sustained effort.
“We are so lucky in North Devon to have the emergency services we have here – they are always so happy to help.”
In another remarkable twist in the tale, Mrs Brett put an advertisement in the Missing Pet section on the North Devon Gazette website, where she read about South Devon-based pet psychic Maureen Rolls, who had helped to relocate missing in pets in the past.
She said:”Maureen kept telling me ‘don’t give up. Your little dog is in a dangerous place but he is still alive. You must keep searching’.
“I’m so pleased she was right.”