Mum recalls 'harrowing' night in the cold

A 4-year-old boy and his mother are recovering well after spending a ''harrowing'' night snuggled up with pet dogs trapped down a steep gully near their West Coast farm.

His mum, who asked to remain anonymous, was resting today after the Monday night incident, nursing scratches to her hands and face.

Her son was unscathed and ''still bouncing off the walls'' like nothing had happened, she said today.

The youngster had been playing with their five pig dogs, all family pets, on Monday evening near their home near Ahaura, about 35 kilometres from Greymouth.

She asked him to come inside for tea, but when he failed to arrive she went to investigate and spotted him down the rugged gully after hearing his faint cries for help.

Her son had become stuck down the bank while following the dogs, which often played in the gully about 200m from their house.

She clambered about 10m down the slippery slope to him and decided it was safer if they headed to the bottom, where it was flat and easier to walk to find a way out.

However, darkness fell before they could find an escape route and their calls for help to neighbours went unnoticed because of the terrain.

She decided to hunker down for the night, wrapping her son in her jacket and snuggled him on top of her.

Three dogs huddled around them to keep them warm on the crisp, clear night ,while two stood guard, the dogs taking turns at their protective roles.

''They wouldn't leave us.''

They chatted to pass time, talking about what he would have for breakfast to keep his spirits up.

Glow worms sparkled around their impromptu campsite.

''We'd never been down there before. [My son] thought it was quite an adventure,'' the mother, 33, said.

He managed to sleep, but she struggled.

''It was pretty harrowing ... It was cold and scary, but you do what you do as a mother,'' she said.

She was embarrassed with all the media attention over their escapade.

As soon as it was daylight they managed to get part-way out, but she had to leave her son behind to scramble through gorse to freedom, where she called emergency services about 9.15am yesterday.

She also called her partner, a builder, who was working further south in Whataroa and had not returned home that night.

He said today he phoned their home on Monday night but no-one answered, so he assumed his family had gone to bed early.

Friends rallied around before emergency services arrived yesterday morning, one climbing into the gully to comfort the lad while he waited for rescue, she said.

Fire crews stretchered him to safety about 11am and the pair were taken by St John to Grey Base Hospital for a checkup before being sent home.

''I'm really grateful to the emergency services, and our friends in the community were fantastic as well,'' the mother said.

The Press