Technical Rescue of a Dog at Oneonta Gorge

Hikers in the Oneonta Gorge area on Sunday called 911 because they could hear a dog barking from the base of the 100-foot cliffs surrounding Triple Falls. Multnomah County deputies were concerned that a person may have fallen down the cliff and their dog was with them. At least one similar tragedy had occurred several years ago in the same location. The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office contacted Portland Mountain Rescue and asked PMR to search the cliffs for a possible human subject

Around 3:30, PMR rescuers encountered a distraught dog owner on the trail near the falls. She reported that her dog Rocky had fallen off the cliff the day before. She and friends had returned Sunday to search for Rocky, but they could not get to the bottom of the cliffs, and Rocky was no longer barking. Assuming the worst, she was headed home.

The rescuers proceeded to the overlook above the falls from which the dog had fallen and inspected the area from the tops of the cliffs by descending partway from the other side of the falls. Around 4:00, the deputy in charge concluded there was no human subject and terminated the mission. However, he gave PMR rescuers permission to continue on their own if they chose to do so. PMR elected to send one rescuer over the cliff as a training exercise.

Five minutes later, a wriggling, yapping Rocky cheerfully greeted Scott Norton as he rappelled to a ledge halfway down the cliff. Rocky had fallen to the ledge and stayed their more than 24 hours, confident that his humans would come for him. Eventually overcoming Rocky’s resistance, Scott stuffed Rocky into his pack and closed it tight for the journey back up the cliff. Using a two-rope system, rescuers hauled Scott and Rocky back up the cliff where he was reunited with his tearful owner.

Back at the trailhead, Rocky had a snack and passed out dog kisses to all the PMR rescuers. One rescuer commented that Rocky would probably forget the adventure by tomorrow, but would be terrified of backpacks for the rest of his life. Rocky’s owner says she’ll keep him on leash from now on. Happy holidays to all!

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