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Firefighters rescue 12-year-old dog stuck at bottom of ravine

Using a rope system, firefighters made their way down to AJ, the lab, and loaded him up in a basket usually reserved for rescuing people


By Erin Tracy
Modesto Bee

SONORA, Calif. — Last week, Samantha Goodman stood at the top of a 75-foot ravine looking down helplessly at her 12-year-old Labrador AJ, stuck at the bottom.

She, her sister and her two young nieces had taken her two dogs for a walk along a dirt road above Woods Creek near the Mother Lode Fairgrounds.

AJ had been pretty down recently after an ear infection, and the drops to treat it had been giving him trouble with his hearing, Goodman said.

She thought some fresh air and one of his favorite activities would cheer him up.

“We were at the very end of our walk,” Goodman said. “I don’t know if he fell down the hill or what, but he ended up at the bottom of a steep cliff and we were calling him and trying to get him up and he was trying to get back up to us, but he was pacing back and forth and tripping over the rocks. He was panicking. He was scared. He couldn’t get back up the hill.”

Goodman’s sister got down to AJ, but she couldn’t get him back up. Goodman’s husband, who was out of town, called a friend to come help, but he too couldn’t get the 100-pound lab back up the steep hill. And at 37 weeks pregnant, Goodman couldn’t even attempt the rescue.

So after exhausting all their options, they called for help. The Sonora Fire Department, the Jamestown Fire District and the Sonora Police Department came to the rescue.

Using a rope system, firefighters made their way down to AJ and loaded him up in a basket usually reserved for rescuing people.

“He didn’t fight the firefighters at all when they lifted him up and put him in the basket; he didn’t even move,” Sonora Fire Chief Aimee New said.

She said it wasn’t until they loaded him in the back of Goodman’s Jeep that he finally lifted his head and gave them a feeble wag of his tail.

Goodman said that after spending three days at the vet getting IV fluids, AJ is on the mend.

She said her veterinarian told her AJ had been suffering from laryngeal paralysis, a disorder that causes breathing problems and is common in older Labs.

Goodman expressed her gratitude to the first responders who helped AJ in a post on Facebook Wednesday.

“Our family would like to give a very big special thank you to Sonora fire department and police,” she wrote. “We are so grateful for your help! I don’t know what we would have done without you.”

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