A Vancouver Island family is expressing its gratitude to search and rescue personnel after a daring late-night rescue of the family’s dog, Thor, who had been badly injured by a bear and was stuck at the bottom of a 200-foot ravine.
The Lynch family, who lives in the Qualicum Bay/Dashwood area, called Arrowsmith SAR after finding their 125-pound dog at the bottom of a ravine on their property several weeks ago.
When Thor didn’t show up for dinner, they knew something was wrong. Tanya Lynch followed her intuition down into the ravine where they found the dog badly injured from a bear attack. Both Tanya and her husband tried to bring Thor back home themselves, but they had to stop when Thor ended up biting her husband out of fear.
Lynch was at a loss for what to do when she thought to call Arrowsmith SAR. It was sometime between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. when she made the call.
The team arrived within 15 minutes. They assessed the area and determined that they would need to call in the rope rescue team from Comox Search and Rescue. In the middle of the night, the team showed up within half an hour of the call, according to Lynch.
She struggled to put into words how it felt to have such a prompt reply to her call for help.
“They were so dedicated, and so respectful… I can’t say enough good things,” said Lynch.
According to Nick Rivers, president and search manager for Arrowsmith SAR, it was about 4 a.m. by the time the teams finally got Thor up and back together with his owners.
Once the crews made it down to the bottom, they stabilized Thor and brought down a stretcher. The rope team then set up, went down the embankment, and brought Thor out to the top.
“It was pretty complex because we had very challenging anchors where we anchor the rope system to at the top of the hill… so it took a little while to get everything going,” said Rivers.
Rivers says that Search and Rescue groups can respond to animal calls, but they won’t be reimbursed for any fuel, food or damaged gear the way they do when rescuing humans, although they are still covered by WorkSafe BC.
“Animal rescue is a Good Samaritan act,” said Rivers.
Rivers estimates that all members involved in the rescue were home by approximately 5:30 a.m. He noted that most of the members had to get up for work shortly afterwards.
The Arrowsmith squad, like most SAR teams, is entirely made up of volunteers.
Lynch says she believes that SAR teams need more recognition for the work they do.
“We really think that they need to be acknowledged. Because they’re just like everyday people – they’re like us – they’re on call, and they come and save people’s lives – they’re everyday heroes,” said Lynch.
Rivers says that what SAR teams consider normal can be quite overwhelming and impressive for viewers.
“What we do in SAR is a little bit out of the normal for most people. For us, it can feel very normal to hook up to a bunch of ropes and rappel down a 200-foot embankment,” said Rivers.
“I think it’s very shocking and impressive to people when they see the operation really come together, and how much goes into it. And how much SAR members really care. They bring all their passion and enthusiasm with them. And everyone really stepped up to the plate that night to do everything they could to help Thor. It was a really great experience.”
Unfortunately, due to the shoulder injury Thor sustained from the bear attack, he had to be put down the next day.
“He ended up crushing his shoulder. He would have had to have an amputation. Because he was such an active, running, working dog, we didn’t think that at 11 he would be able to deal with the amputation,” said Lynch.
Thor was an Akbash, a type of dog often used as a livestock guardian or shepherd dog. He was one of several guard dogs on the Lynch’s acreage.
Lynch says she is so grateful to the Arrowsmith SAR for ensuring Thor didn’t die stranded in the ravine.
“It’s bittersweet. The thing is, he didn’t die a horrible death in the ravine. Because of them, he was returned up. We have two children, they got to sit with him in the morning. It was a sweet goodbye, but it could have been really horrible if they hadn’t have showed up and saved him.”