Spring and summer are generally the time to get outside and enjoy nature. For many, part of that enjoyment involves the participation of all family members, including the four-legged ones.
While most popular hiking spots and parks have leash laws regarding pets, there are still many who believe their dogs best experience nature without the hassle of a tether. It’s certainly joyous to watch dogs running full-tilt, exploring and adventuring to their heart’s content — but it’s also very dangerous, for many reasons.
This is just one.
On Sunday morning, one family set out to the breathtaking Elora Gorge in Ontario, Canada, with their dog. At one point along the top of the gorge, the dog fell in — around 60 feet down, in a dangerous and inaccessible spot.
A call for help came in around 10 a.m., and both the Elora and Fergus fire stations sent rescue teams, according to Centre Wellington Deputy Fire Chief Jonathan Karn.
CW Fire crews from stn 40 & 60 operating in the Elora Gorge this morning performing a rope rescue @CWFireChief pic.twitter.com/I7YN4g3CYi
— Jonathan Karn (@karnDC2) May 23, 2021
“Any time we have a technical rescue whether it be a rope rescue, fire rescue or ice rescue, that immediately sends out a response to both our Elora and Fergus station — so we had firefighters from both Fergus and Elora respond to that,” he said, according to Kitchener Today.
While Karn told CTV that the dog’s owners were “on a marked trail and not out of the boundary area,” he stressed that he couldn’t say for sure that the dog was originally off-leash. He said it somehow “got away from them” and out of their control.
The crew of rescuers worked for two hours to retrieve the dog, which was described as “medium to large.” The dog did receive medical care, but Karn said the outcome was “not positive”: Sadly, the animal ended up dying. The rescue turned to retrieval, “offering closure” to the owners.
Karn said local first responders get several calls a year like this, generally as the number of visitors starts to increase. Dogs falling into the gorge is sometimes compounded by people going after their pets, which is part of the reason that calling for a rescue team is so highly recommended.
It’s also difficult because the area has a lot of natural beauty that would be ruined by excessive signage or barriers, but people can still ignore those, too.
“The trails are marked — and it’s a fine line between having a nice trail that takes advantage of nature and the scenery of the gorge versus putting up large fences and not having people be able to enjoy that area,” Karn explained.
“The majority of our responses involve people who have crossed a barrier wanting that extra look over the edge, and they’re just in an area they shouldn’t be.
“We have a lot of tourists that come into our area unfamiliar with the trails and unfortunately, we end up doing [these types of responses] several times a year. Tourists are starting to arrive with COVID numbers coming down, so I would expect we’ll see an increase in calls.”
Authorities stress that the park is not an off-leash park and that it’s safest for dogs to be on-leash in the area anyway to avoid injury or death for the dogs and heartbreak for owners.
“This was accidental,” Karn said. “It was likely an off-leash mistake.”