January 8, 1998 in Sports

Daring Ascent Rescues Dog From The Brink

Rich Landers The Spokesman-Revi
 

Having a hunting dog who knows his place usually is a matter of convenience. But in a strange incident near the Grande Ronde River, it was a matter of life and death.

Spokane hunter Steve Glover and his 13-year-old son, Scott, had planned a full sporting day recently in Asotin County.

They dabbled at steelheading in the morning. Around noon, they drove to the Joseph Creek area to hunt chukars in the rugged breaks above the Grande Ronde.

“The sky cleared and the sunshine was brilliant,” Steve said. “I remember saying to Scott, “This is going to be a great day.”’ The kid may never believe his dad again.

They released their English setter, Wind, who swept the steep hillside with the youthful exuberance of a 3-year-old pointer.

“We’d barely started when Wind went over a hill and didn’t come back,” Steve said. “I knew he had to be on birds.”

Indeed, Wind had done his job, but the chukars flushed out of range and the dog broke to hunt some more.

“The dog was out on a rocky ridge when he saw me below,” Steve said. “There was a gap in the rocks and chute down a steep bank. Wind must have thought it would lead right down to me.”

But the chute steepened abruptly. In an instant, Wind was backpedaling and sliding until he slammed into a small ledge in the middle of the cliff.

The hunters climbed to the top of the ridge and tried to call the dog back up the chute.

“It was too steep to go back up, and it was a 20-foot drop to the rocks below,” Steve said. “The ledge was small, and the dog couldn’t go sideways. He was stuck.”

At 1:30, the Grovers decided to hike out to get help. “Wind freaked out as soon as we started to leave,” Steve said. “He was yipping and barking and almost fell off the ledge. Rocks were tumbling down from under his paws.”

Steve left his son at the cliff to keep the dog company. A rancher let Steve call his wife, who was visiting relatives in Clarkston. She quickly set out on the hourlong drive to Joseph Creek with a 28-foot aluminum extension ladder.

Meanwhile, Steve drove back and hauled warm clothes and food to Scott, who remained on watch with the dog.

“The nice day was starting to deteriorate,” Steve said.

Anyone who’s hunted chukar country can imagine the ordeal of hauling that ladder for a half-hour scramble up the hillside, slipping on the damp grass and stumbling over the scree and boulders.

To Steve’s amazement, the young pointer had stayed put.

The frustration started to mount when Steve couldn’t stabilize the ladder to safely reach the dog.

“The ground dropped off steeply at the bottom of the cliff,” he said. It was too precarious to risk a life. I was thinking we’d have to leave Wind. But this was my first hunting dog. I couldn’t bear the thought.”

Steve’s wife had been doing some scrambling for help on the telephone, but the Asotin County Sheriff’s Department wouldn’t respond. For a human, yes, but not for a dog, the dispatcher said.

One sympathetic sportsman came up the lonely gravel road. “I could look at him and see that he probably wouldn’t make it up the hillside, much less be able to help,” Steve said. “What I needed was a young buck with no fear.”

The Sheriff’s Department must have reconsidered and sent an animal control officer. But after taking a long look at where the dog was, he turned back without leaving the road.

By that time it was after 5:30. The sky was dark and spitting snow.

“I knew I had to get my family out of there, too,” Steve said. “The dog had settled, and it was so dark he couldn’t see us leave. He didn’t bark. I was so heartbroken, I couldn’t bear to look up to see what he was doing.”

All the way back to Clarkston, Steve considered the options. “I thought of driving stakes in the ground and hanging a rope over the cliff, but I didn’t have stakes big enough, and the ground was too rocky.”

At 8 p.m., he called Dirk Minatre, a friend who works with Steve at the Veteran’s Hospital. Minatre, a member of the Spokane Mountaineers, is the only rock climber the Glovers knew.

“I’d exhausted all my resources,” Steve said. “If I’d have been smarter maybe I could have come up with something else. But Dirk said, ‘I’ll be there for you.”

Sometime after 1 a.m., Steve was leading Dirk up the snowy hillside using headlamps in the dark.

“I had this lump in my throat the whole time,” Steve said. “I didn’t know whether I’d be bringing Dirk all that way for a dead dog.”

Wind, however, had kept his composure, making the transition from bird dog to rock hound. He was shivering, but safe on his perch.

Dirk quickly realized the rock was too rotten to climb. But with the skill and confidence of a mountaineer, he was able to secure the ladder and climb up with his pack to the dog.

“I didn’t like what I was seeing,” Steve said. “I couldn’t have done that.”

Wind greeted the strange rescuer just as you might expect. “He panicked,” Steve said.

“Dirk managed to get on the ledge and tie him into a harness. He was petting him and reassuring him, but Wind started flipping and clawing and yipping when it was time to go over the cliff.”

Dirk had to push the 40-pounds of fury off the ledge and lower him down with a climbing rope.

The dog was still going berserk when it reached the ground. “His eyes were bugged out a couple of inches,” Steve said. “He was really wigged out.”

The dog and his rescuers were back at their car around 3 a.m. Dirk caught a nap and managed to drive back to Spokane in time for work.

“I told Dirk later I’d never be able to repay him,” Steve said. “He told me, ‘That’s what friends are for.”’

, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact Rich Landers by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5508.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rich Landers The Spokesman-Review

You can contact Rich Landers by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5508.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rich Landers The Spokesman-Review

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