As It Happens

Dog missing for 3 weeks rescued from B.C. cliff face by climbers with an Ikea bag

Jared Smith and Hannah Stephan encountered the dog as they scaled Brilliant Bluffs, a rocky cliff face near Castlegar, B.C.

Stellar appears to have become trapped on a rock ledge after chasing a mountain goat

The red dot indicates where Jared Smith and Hannah Stephan encountered the stranded dog on Brilliant Bluffs near Castlegar, B.C. (Submitted by Marissa Balahura, Jared Smith)
Listen5:36

A dog that was missing for more than three weeks has been rescued from a B.C. cliff thanks to a pair of climbers with an Ikea bag.

Jared Smith and Hannah Stephan encountered the dog more than 200 metres above the ground as they scaled Brilliant Bluffs, a rocky cliff face near Castlegar, B.C., on April 2. 

"We'd just switched over from me lead climbing to her [Hannah] lead climbing," Smith told As it Happens host Carol Off. "She got maybe about halfway to the pitch and then she yells down, 'There's a dog.'"

The emaciated animal showed signs of exhaustion and starvation, he said. 

"Definitely no energy — very tired and very, very skinny," Smith said. "You could see every rib. You could see the hip bones and her spine and stuff."

I'm like, 'Hi, this might be a weird question, but are you missing a dog?'- Jared Smith

Smith said he gave the dog a few pieces of his protein bar and began petting her.

That's when he noticed the dog wasn't wearing any identification tags — but he spotted a phone number written in permanent marker on the collar, so he called it.

"I'm like, 'Hi, this might be a weird question, but are you missing a dog?'" he said.

Stellar the dog was emaciated when she was discovered on a cliff face in B.C. (Submitted by Marissa Balahura)

On the other line was an ecstatic Marissa Balahura, whose dog Stellar had been missing since March 10. She had been out hiking with the dog when it ran off chasing a mountain goat.

She and her friends had hiked up the Brilliant Overlook Trail almost every day since, in search of the 10-year-old pointer cross.

She had lost all hope when Smith called to tell her Stellar was alive. 

"At that point, I was really looking for her remains. I didn't think we were going to find her, so it was actually super emotional," Balahura said. "I just like started bawling." 

After first trying to cradle Stellar in his arms, Smith was eventually able to carry the dog to safety in an Ikea tote bag he'd brought with him to keep ropes in.

"You could see her nails poking through the bottom of the bag and I was scared that the whole bottom of the bag was going to rip right out, because they're not designed to carry a 40-pound dog, you know."

After about 10 minutes of inching along, Smith managed to make it safely to the top of the bluffs with Stellar. 

Stephan and Smith in front of Brilliant Bluffs. (Submitted by Jared Smith)

Coincidentally, Balahura had been headed in the same direction to say a final goodbye to Stellar, before she received the call from Smith, so she was able to meet them at the peak.

"When we finally got the dog up to a little more of a level ground, I guess the dog could hear her kind of crying, and got super excited and jumped out of the bag and ran to her right away," Smith said. 

"She found the energy then."

Balahura described the moment as "perfect."

Stellar is now recovering safe and sound at home, and is starting to gain back her weight, she said. 

"I'm just so grateful to them," she said. "They absolutely saved her life."

With files from Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Jared Smith produced by Allie Jaynes.

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