Clifftop rescue for Pepper the labrador
Abseiling SPCA volunteers have rescued a dog called Pepper trapped on a clifftop ledge above a quarry in Waikanae north of Wellington.
The black labrador was trapped in freezing conditions for about a day after vanishing during a walk on Monday.
Loretta Lewis, from Waikanae, said Pepper ran off during a regular morning walk near a pine forest behind houses on Elizabeth St.
"She normally runs away for five minutes and comes back then runs off again. On this day she didn't come back."
After about half an hour of calling for the dog, Lewis heard her yelping from the nearby Winstone quarry.
"I followed the yelping, and found her up the top of a cliff. I thought maybe she just got caught on a bush with her collar.
"But she was stuck on this little ledge."
Lewis said she thought Pepper might have followed a rabbit and run off the edge. She called the fire brigade and was told they could not help, then called the SPCA.
On Tuesday Kapiti SPCA manager Peter McCallum said the dog landed on a ledge about the size of a single bed.
The ledge was about 50 metres from the ground.
He contacted the Wellington-based animal rescue unit, an SPCA team specialising in rescuing trapped animals.
"They train for all this sort of thing, they've helped me retrieve a calf that was stuck down a cliff in Otaki Gorge... they're really well equipped and they're all fully trained."
The team assembled at the quarry in the early evening on Monday and was up at the cliff site for several hours, trying to find a way to the dog, he said.
"It was just too dangerous... so we just decided we'd back off and try again today."
Lewis said she went home on Monday night and was forced to wait - Pepper's howls from the ledge heard by nearby residents for most of the night.
The night was a long one for daughter Imogen Lewis, 13, who had owned the four-year-old since it was a puppy. She was worried that Pepper might fall asleep and fall off the ledge - the dog faced a freezing night too, with the temperature dropping to zero.
McCallum said the rescue unit headed back up the hill about 9.15am to the cliff top for another attempt.
In daylight, the rescue, with a volunteer anchoring from a tree and abseiling down to Pepper, was a success.
The dog was taken off the ledge and returned to Lewis at about 10am, 24 hours after she vanished.
Eventually a very relieved Imogen Lewis was able to greet her dog when she returned home on Tuesday.
"She just came in, she was really tired, and I just gave her a big hug. She was really happy to see us."
Meanwhile, Lewis said she was grateful to the SPCA for saving her daughter's dog.
"I don't know what would have happened [otherwise]. She would have died there I guess. She's only a skinny little dog and she was so distraught."