Lucky dog survives plunge over 12-metre Muskeg Falls

Her owners may need to rename her Lucky. Libby, a 13-year-old Labrador collie mix, survived a 12-metre fall over the Muskeg Falls near Grande Cache on Saturday.

River guides found Libby at side of the river, 750 metres downstream of the falls

Libby the dog with (clockwise from left) owners Brook and Brent Mendez and rescuers Dean Pollock, Diego Olauares, and Cory Beisel. (Facebook)

Her owners may want to rename her Lucky.

Libby, a 13-year-old Labrador-border collie mix, survived a 12-metre fall over the Muskeg Falls near Grande Cache on Saturday before a trio of rescuers safely returned her to her grateful owners.

Brook and Brent Mendez, were out for a walk near the falls with Libby, their dog.

They let Libby off her leash as they descended a steep slope to the Muskeg River.

"She was having a hard time getting her footing and we thought, 'OK, she's going to pull us down into the river down the hill,' so we let her off-leash," Brook Mendez said Wednesday.

'She looked dead'

"Before either of us had got down to the end, Libby had jumped in the water."

Neither of them realized the river was that close to the trail, she said.

The two scrambled down the river bank. But before they could get to her, Libby was swept over the 12-metre falls, which crash onto a rock slab at the bottom.

"She kind of disappeared and when we could see her again, we saw her body floating under the water," Brook Mendez said. "She wasn't trying to lift her head up out of the water. She looked dead."

The couple looked along the edge of the river for Libby. They were helped by another couple they met on the trail.

Finally, they had to give up looking and thought Libby must have died.

River guides volunteered to search

But they wanted to know what happened to her and to be sure that she wasn't out there somewhere, suffering.

Brent Mendez then phoned the Grande Cache Tourist Information Centre, which put him in touch with Gina Goldie, owner and founder of Wild Blue Yonder Rafting Adventures.
Libby the dog survived a plunge over Muskeg Falls on the Muskeg River near Grande Cache last weekend. (Trevor Boller)

Three guides who work at the rafting company offered to go out and look for the dog, even though they'd just finished putting in a long day on the river.

Dean Pollock, Cory Beisel and Diego Olauares got their dry suits and supplies and drove to the trailhead.

"I wasn't really looking on the positive side of things but we packed up all our stuff and went down to the waterfall anyway," Pollock said.

Beisel told the couple the group would try to find Libby's body and bring her collar back to the couple.

The three walked, swam, and floated down the river below the falls looking for the dog..

Pollock said he spotted Libby about 750 metres downstream, on the side of the river.

"I was like, 'Oh, there's the dog!' " he said. "Then I was like, 'Oh no, there's the dog'. But then she moved her head and I was like 'Oh yeah! There's the dog! She's alive!' "

Exhausted dog carried up the hill

But Libby wasn't exactly happy to see the trio of rescuers.

"She was quite defensive and scared," said Beisel, who kept talking to her to try and win her trust.

"Then I was, like, 'You want to go for a walk?' and her ears perked up," he said.

The two were fast friends from that moment.

Beisel improvised a leash, using a line from his personal flotation device, and the group started to make their way back.

But the steep hill proved too much for Libby.

"She kind of just stopped and … she just kind of did one of those rolls like dogs do," Beisel said.

"I could see there was no more fight in her."

He picked up the 30-kilogram animal and started to carry her up the hill.

Pollock and Olauares also took turns carrying the dog.

Once they got to the top, they put Libby in the truck and drove her back to her ecstatic owners.

Along the way, Beisel phoned the couple to tell them what had happened.

"Brent put him on speaker and Cory said, 'We're back up and I've got good news,' " Brook Mendez said. " 'We found your dog.' And then he said, 'She's still alive.'

"And I just broke down. I just fell to my knees and cried so hard."

Grateful owners

The couple took Libby to their veterinarian who gave the dog a clean bill of health, despite some bruises and scrapes.

A subdued Libby rests quietly in her owners' hotel room after her rescue. (Brook Mendez)

Brook Mendez can't give enough thanks to the men who rescued her dog.

"I'm just so grateful," she said. "I could never repay them."

"She would have died," she said. "They saved her life. They didn't know us, they didn't know her, and they just did this, on one of the busiest weekends of their year."

Beisel described the experience as uplifting.

"For me, it was just a job well done, kind of thing," he said.

The experience has been overwhelming for the couple, who moved to Grande Prairie in November from Montana.

"We're just so struck by how many people in the community jumped to our help," she said. "We are astounded by their kindness and their generosity."​


Nola Keeler is an award-winning journalist who has worked with CBC in Whitehorse, Yukon and Edmonton since 2000. She has worked as a host, reporter, news reader and producer for CBC. Send story ideas to nola.keeler@cbc.ca.