Dog sparks rescue mission after getting stuck on cliff ledge in Chopwell Woods

Fiona Preston was relieved when Olive was safely rescued from the narrow ledge in Chopwell Woods. Credit: Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.

Firefighters were called to rescue a cocker spaniel after it went missing on a walk and became stuck on a ledge part way up a cliff.

Olive's escapade sparked a two-hour rescue ordeal for owners John and Fiona Preston.

The couple were walking 20-month-old Olive and their other cocker spaniel Daisy in Chopwell Woods, Gateshead, when the dog disappeared.

After hearing a whining noise from over the side of a cliff edge and descending 30ft to the river bank, they were able to see Olive balanced on a ledge.

Mr Preston, 63, said: “We knew something was wrong when Daisy returned alone without Olive as they are normally inseparable.

“Our fears were confirmed when Olive didn’t respond to the dog whistle. We looked at each-other and said ‘where is she’?

“We followed the whining along the river bank but were extra careful as the water was fast- flowing and waist deep if we were to fall in.

“Then as the whining got louder we looked up and could see Olive precariously perched on a cliff ledge.”

The rope rescue took 45 minutes, which allowed the crew time to descend the cliff-face and find the terrified pooch. Credit: TWFRS/Preston Family

It soon became clear it was not safe to climb up to the ledge, or edge themselves down from above, so they decided it was time to call for help.

Mrs Preston called 999 and the fire control team at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service agreed to deploy a crew for the rescue mission on Saturday 3 December.

Mr Preston said: “At one point we were so scared that the reality could be that we’d be going home without our Olive. With the constant whining we didn’t know if she was seriously injured from the fall.”

Mrs Preston added: “We were running on autopilot and the adrenaline of the situation. We totally lost track of time.

“The firefighters were amazing. They kept John and myself in the loop and reassured us at every opportunity. We found out that most of them were dog lovers and could appreciate our concern.”

Olive the cocker spaniel was rescued by firefighters after disappearing while on a walk in Chopwell Woods. Credit: Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service

Firefighters from Swalwell Community Fire Station were later joined by a crew from Hebburn and the specialist rope rescue team from South Shields Community Fire Station.

In a stroke of luck, the rope rescue team had been training in the same spot only two weeks before to the incident, which meant that they knew how to approach the terrain.

The rope rescue took 45 minutes, which allowed the crew time to descend the cliff-face and find the terrified pooch.

Mr Preston said: “When the rope rescue team arrived we felt a massive sense of relief. We just wanted to know that Olive was alright and safe.

“Daisy also knew that something was wrong and that her best buddy was in distress. We were so grateful to the firefighters and relieved in the knowledge that Olive was safe.

“She was cold and muddy but back in our arms. Her heart was pounding out of her little chest."

Station manager Terry Griffin, of TWFRS, said: “On the evening of Olive’s rescue it wasalready very dark and the ground under foot was quite slippery so the firefighters had to becareful.

“Crews managed to pinpoint her location by using a thermal imaging camera, which thenallowed a member of the rope rescue team to go over the ledge where the anxious animalwas perched.

“Thankfully Olive was found unscathed and she was happily reunited with her owner. It wasa successful rescue operation by our crews.

"We would always urge dog owners to use well-lit paths and grassland areas whenembarking on their walking route especially in the winter months when weather conditionscan be unpredictable.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...