MSR team is at the ready no matter who – or what – needs a helping hand.
By Mary O’KEEFE
On Saturday as members of the Montrose Search and Rescue team were preparing to participate in the Montrose Glendale Christmas Parade, they received a call out to the Dark Canyon area of the Angeles National Forest.
It was just before 6 p.m. and rainy. The victim had fallen off the side of a cliff and was at the bottom of a culvert about 150 feet down. Due to the weather and location, the team knew it was going to be a difficult rescue. They were assisted by Sierra Madre Search and Rescue team members.
“When I went to the [ranger’s] station to report the [fall], I really didn’t think anyone would come. I thought I would have to wait until morning,” said Shannon Presby. “It was really with great bravery and courage that [MSR and SMSR] gave [my family] the best Christmas gift possible.”
The reason Presby wasn’t certain the teams would search that night was because the victim was his dog Sunny.
Presby was hiking with Sunny, a Labrador about 13 years old, and another younger dog. They were in the Dark Canyon area when Sunny fell into a culvert. The first fall was near a six-to-eight foot waterfall. The dog had gotten tangled in some roots.
“He got caught in a tributary on Dark Canyon Stream,” Presby said. “It was pretty remote country.”
For about 30 minutes, Presby worked to get his dog free from the brush. He managed to get Sunny out of the brush and into a safer area, but the dog had been injured when he fell. Presby was about 150 feet down the side of what he described as “very steep terrain” and he knew he couldn’t get his dog back up to the path.
“I thought about going down along the bottom, but that would have taken so long,” he said. “Hiking down stream was not an option.”
And with Sunny injured it would be difficult, if not impossible, to carry him to the road.
“It was getting dark and I had to make a horrible choice,” he said.
Presby decided the only way to save his dog was to climb back up to the road and get help. He put his fleece jacket over Sunny, told him to stay and hiked out with the younger dog.
He came upon the nearby U.S. Forest Ranger Station and reported what had happened.
Montrose Search and Rescue was called.
“It was difficult on many levels with zero visibility, it was wet and it was cold,” said Mike Leum, MSR member.
About 25 members of MSR and Sierra Madre Search and Rescue worked about eight hours to get the dog back up to the road. They were able to rappel down the 150-foot cliff to reach the dog. Presby went along with them to keep Sunny quiet.
“I don’t think he would have let us near him if [Presby] wasn’t there,” said Doug Cramoline, MSR member.
The team was able to rig a hoist to pull Sunny up to the trail. Once there, the team members had to carry the 100-pound, wet and injured dog up to the road.
Leum credits the owner for being there and helping the team rescue Sunny.
“He was in great shape, was able to climb out of the area and get to the ranger station then back down to help with his dog,” he said of Presby.
MSR members also shared credit with Sierra Madre Search and Rescue team members whose assistance was invaluable to the rescue effort.
Presby, his wife Clara, their 11-year-old daughter Francesca and Sunny visited the teams at the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station on Monday to thank them for saving their family dog.
Francesca was at a sleepover at Disneyland and Clara was also out of town when the rescue occurred.
“I didn’t tell them about it right away,” Presby said.
Francesca said she was very happy her dog was all right. Clara hugged each member of the team and thanked them for all that they did.
Sunny seemed as if that rainy cold night did not affect him at all. Carrie Brewster from Andersen’s Pet Shop joined the team members and gave Sunny a gift of food, treats and a stuffed teddy bear that seemed to occupy the dog’s attention more than his rescuers.
“It surprised me that they would come out [that night] and rescue a dog but it gave me renewed faith in the goodness of people,” Presby said. “To think these strangers would risk themselves, let along their plans that night … that was really a testament to the goodness in people.”
MSR and Sierra Madre Search and Rescue are volunteers; they receive $1 a year and are on call 24/7.