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A harrowing tail: How a dog at a New York park was rescued after five days without food or water



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ULSTER COUNTY, N.Y. — A dog hiking with her owner in an Ulster County state park was rescued late Tuesday after falling into a crevice five days earlier and surviving with no food or water, apparently licking the moisture off the rock walls to stay alive.

The harrowing tale began last Thursday, Oct. 7, when the hiker’s dog became trapped in a rocky crevice near Gertrude’s Nose Trail in Minnewaska State Park Preserve in Ulster County, according to the state Parks Department.

The 12-year-old dog, Liza, fell out of sight into the narrow crevice, but could be heard barking.

Several attempts that night to reach Liza were unsuccessful, and rescuers struggled for days to get a camera into the tight area to check the dog’s condition.

But by Tuesday, members of the Ulster County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were on scene to assist and a specialized plumbing inspection camera from the state Parks Department was used to finally locate Liza.

A rescuer from the New Jersey Initial Response Team, which specializes in cave rescue, was able to descend into the crevice to get the camera close enough to see the dog moving in a narrow area.

And Liza looked unharmed.

Next, one rescuer was able to get a modified, extended catch pole around the dog and was pulled to safety about at about 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“We are thrilled that it was possible to reunite Liza with its owner,” Joshua Laird, the executive director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, said in a statement

“This incident is a reminder that the rules requiring dogs to be kept on-leash are an important way to protect loved pets, their owners and the park’s fragile resources.”

Mark Dickey, chief of the New Jersey Initial Response Team, described Liza as stuck in a tight vertical fissure that led to an even tighter horizontal crack.

Only Jessica Van Ord, the group’s smallest team member, was “able to squeeze and contort herself more than 40 feet from the surface to reach the dog.”

Van Ord used a hot dog hanging from the end of the catch pole to attract the dog into putting its head into the loop, which allowed another rescuer to close the loop so Van Ord could secure the dog.

Ulster County SPCA officials determined the dog, while hungry and thirsty, was in good health and was later reunited with its owner.

In the camera, the dog was seen licking the damp walls of the crevice, likely providing itself with moisture that helped it survive, the SPCA said.

The state Parks Department said that regulations require that all visitors must keep their dogs on leashes of not more than six feet at all times.

“This incident is a reminder that a single misstep, whether by animal, child, or even adult, near caves or cliffs can be deadly,” Dickey said.

Gina Carbonari, executive director of the Ulster County SPCA, described a remarkable scene of rescuers coming together to help Liza.

“The rejoicing on the surface to that news was just incredible and renewed everyone’s motivation to get this little dog to safety,” she said.

“Every person there played a role in making this happen – an amazing team effort by multiple agencies.”

Follow Joseph Spector on Twitter: @GannettAlbany