Nova Scotia·Updated

Firefighter swims to rescue Roxy the dog after fall from Glace Bay cliff

A berry picking trip in Glace Bay, N.S., turned sour after a family's dog fell off a 15-metre high cliff into the ocean below. But thanks to firefighters the story has a happy ending.

'It's somebody's family member. We will do whatever we have to do to keep families together'

More than 30 firefighters from four different departments came out to help rescue Roxy after she fell off a cliff in Glace Bay, N.S. (Submitted by Tracy Power)

It took dogged determination by four fire departments to rescue a dog that fell over a cliff in Glace Bay, N.S., on Sunday. 

The Mastiff named Roxy, who weighs around 65 pounds, fell over the cliff and into the ocean while her owners were berry picking at the end of Sheas Lane in the community.

The cliffs in the area are treacherous, and at least two people have died after falling over the embankment in recent years, according to John Chant, fire chief with the Glace Bay Volunteer Fire Department. 

Firefighters from the Glace Bay, Dominion, Albert Bridge and New Victoria fire departments were called to the scene around 5:30 p.m.  

The cliff face that Roxy fell down is approximately 15 metres high. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

It appears the dog fell about 15 metres into the water, then hauled herself onto a small outcropping of land about two metres above the waves, said Chant.

"It's somebody's family member. We will do whatever we have to do to keep families together and make that save," said Chant. 

A lot easier said than done in this case, since it took a while for the dog to co-operate with her would-be rescuers. 

John Chant is chief of the Glace Bay Volunteer Fire Department. (CBC)

Firefighters first launched two boats and tried to coax the dog to jump in, but the frightened and confused animal refused to leave her perch. 

"Our second course of action was the high-angle rescue teams to rappel down from above and see if they could get the dog and either deliver him to the boat or bring him up to the top of the bank," said Chant. 

But as the ropes were being set up, the crew still in the boat decided to try a different tactic — a rescuer would swim to the dog.   

A firefighter was outfitted in an ice-rescue suit, which protects a person from the cold and also acts as a flotation device. 

"He was tied to the boat, he swam over to the dog, coaxed the dog into the water and then got the dog, he was pulled into the Glace Bay boat," Chant said.  

It took fire crews about two hours to rescue the dog and then another hour and a half to clean up their gear after the rescue. (Jennifer Ludlow/CBC)

Chant said rescue swims aren't common, but his department and others in the area have strong swimmers that can do that kind of work.

The dog didn't appear to be injured and was quickly ferried to a wharf to be reunited with her family. 

"They were ecstatic, I got a big hug and a high five from the dad," said Chant. "The thank-yous were quick at the scene there and I met them again at the wharf to pick the dog up and again they thanked us. They couldn't believe we did what we did."   

Despite the happy ending, Chant said people should be careful around Cape Breton Island's shoreline because much of it is undermined by seawater and is eroding quickly, with portions of land that can easily collapse underfoot.

"These are very, very dangerous cliffs to be on," said Chant. "You just have to be careful around these banks because one slip and it could end up being a tragic situation. Again we've had this happen over the past two years, we've lost two individuals in the same area."     

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With files from Matthew Moore

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