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Dog trapped on ledge in Garret Mountain Park is rescued

March 24, 2014, 8:10 PM    Last updated: Monday, March 24, 2014, 8:10 PM
Staff Writer
The Record
WOODLAND PARK — For three hours on Monday, about 25 Paterson firefighters on four fire trucks, a handful of Passaic County Sheriff’s officers and Paterson’s animal control officer converged at a cliff at Garret Mountain Park.
Their mission: to rescue a small white dog.
“The dog was on a sloping ledge, wedged between the rocks,” said James Harpster, the rescue volunteer who eventually rappelled down with a dog snare and brought the dog to safety.
Officials said the dog, which may be a poodle mix, seemed to have lost lots of weight, and hadn’t been groomed in some time, its fur grown out and unkempt.
The dog had been trapped midway atop a steep cliff behind Lambert Castle, apparently for days, until a hiker heard it bark and alerted authorities on Monday afternoon. Firefighters were dispatched at around 2 p.m., and for the next two hours, they tried rescuing it from below.
They climbed a 35-foot ladder and tried to coax the animal out with food, but when they got too close, the dog would retreat.
“The dog kept getting further trapped in,” said Battalion Chief Brian McDermott, who led the rescue effort.
The solution, in the end, was to scoop it up from above, requiring Harpster to go down about 50 feet strapped in a harness and enter a ravine “22, 23 inches wide,” said McDermott. A red tarp was laid on the top of the cliff to protect the rope against sharp edges.
“Once I got to it, it was docile,” said Harpster, a volunteer with New Jersey Search and Rescue, a non-profit specializing in wilderness rescue.
McDermott suggested the dog may have been “chasing after dinner” when it followed a trail in a ravine that it could not work its way back up. John DeCando, Paterson’s animal control officer, said the owner may have abandoned it.
“That dog was not well taken care of,” DeCando said. “Thank god that somebody heard that dog. He certainly would’ve died with the snow we’re about to be getting.”
DeCando said the dog looked bigger than it actually is, with lots of overgrown fur, because it “has not been groomed in a while,” DeCando said.
“He’s very, very thin,” he said.
But was it worth the time and effort of dozens of public employees to save a single dog? DeCando didn’t hesitate.
“You’re saving an animal’s life,” he said. “You have to hear the way he was yelping. He was calling for help.”
The dog’s collar had no identifying information or tags, he said.
It was taken to a city veterinarian, Paul Sova, at the Blue Cross Dog & Cat Hospital where it was to stay overnight.
Today, the dog was expected to be taken to Second Chance Pet Adoption League in Oak Ridge. Those wishing to adopt the dog after the seven-day period required for an owner to claim it can contact the league at 973-208-1054.