Hunting dogs recovering after being stranded in rugged North Taranaki bush for three days
Firefighters have been credited with saving the lives of two hunting dogs left stranded in rugged bush while trying to bail up a pig.
Taranaki dairy farmer Warren Patterson and a friend were hunting in the Uruti Valley, in North Taranaki, in late February when their dogs Bell and Raz found themselves stuck in a gorge.
"We went to see where the dogs and pig were and found this gorge the dogs were in," Patterson said.
"We spent a day-and-a-half trying to get into the gorge but we couldn't. No matter which way we tried we just couldn't get into it."
After exiting the bush the pair contacted the SPCA and the following day two animal welfare inspectors and an abseiler returned to the gorge with Patterson and his friend to retrieve the dogs.
But the rescue attempt was unsuccessful, as the dogs could not be reached, Patterson said.
"The abseiler had 30 metre ropes and went down as far as he could and still couldn't get them."
However, he was able to drop a bag of food to the dogs. He was also able to provide the Fire Service with a detailed description of the area and how best to access it.
The next day the hunters, SPCA inspectors and firefighters returned again and this time, with better equipment, the group were able to lower a rescuer to the dogs and pull them out of the gorge one by one, Patterson said.
"The dogs were fairly happy to see us," he said of the rescue.
Patterson said the three day wait to see his border collie cross Bell had been an agonising one.
"For any pet owner that loves their animal, that situation, it's not a good feeling," he said.
"You've always got those thoughts 'can the dogs be retrieved? Are they unretrievable? Are they hurt? What state are they in?' going through your head.
"When they come out with their tail wagging, it's a massive relief. It was a great feeling."
SPCA inspector Maria Carroll said without the firefighters' help the group would not have been able to reach the dogs and they would have been shot.
"It's better that, than to let them starve to death," she said.
"They were very, very tired when they got up and had to be carried out of the bush. Bell had been stuck in water for three days."
New Plymouth acting senior station officer Keith Murphy said animal rescues weren't common but were a growing part of the job for the Fire Service.
He said it was an awesome feeling being part of the successful rescue.
"Hunters have a very strong connection with the animals they work with, so it was totally a good feeling to reunite them."