Animal lovers and search and rescue personnel in Kerry joined forces yesterday for a dramatic cliff rescue that saved the life of a dog trapped in a crevice for three days.
The drama unfolded on the windswept cliffs of Valentia Island, where local man David O'Connor (69) was walking his two and a half year old beagle Shandon on Saturday.
"The dog raced down the cliffs after a herd of wild goats and got stuck," explained Suzanne Gibbons of AHAR animal rescue centre in Castleisland.
David enlisted the help of friend Bobby Burton to find Shandon, and though the two could hear him howling far below, they were unable to reach him.
Poor Shandon spent two days alone in the crevice, with David distraught, until Bobby put a call in to the indomitable Suzanne.
"This dog was owned by his young son who lost his fight with cancer recently and this dog was his world," she said.
"We had to find him.
"My first call was to see could we get him professional help and I was told 'we don't do call outs for animals'.
"So I stopped in Killorglin and bought a huge coil of rope. I bought €20 credit for my phone and called everyone but the pope.
"I was going down after him no matter what - I told the coastguard I was going to tie the rope to the bull bar of the jeep and be lowered down, and they could help me or not."
Suzanne's call for help was soon answered by Pat O'Driscoll of the Knightstown Coast Guard Unit on Valentia island, a man she describes as "the real hero of the story".
"Pat O'Driscoll is a real local hero," Suzanne said. "Without him cajoling them, nobody else would have come out.
"As it happened, Pat put out the word and one by one his volunteers followed, most of them coming straight from work."
Suzanne said that Pat stayed true to the cause even when others had given up.
"It takes a leader," she said. "And he was a leader on that day. Even when people were telling him to 'cop on, this is ridiculous', he never lost faith'".
As the effort went on, Suzanne said she was reduced to tears when she saw the Valentia Island lifeboat "tearing towards us".
"What a bunch of fantastic people," she said.
"They stayed with us, trying desperately to see him on the cliffs to guide the rescuers to his side.
"They never gave up until we found him."
And find him they did, with Shandon's howls drawing them to where the dog was trapped in crevice, 12ft deep.
"We all started crying and cheering the boys on as they climbed in to rescue him," Suzanne wrote in a blog post on AHAR's Facebook page
"I swear I could have burst with excitement."
After three agonising days, a massive reponse to a call for help, and some moments where hope had seemed unfounded, Pat and his team finally brought Shandon up to safety.
"That dog was trapped in a crevice with water and could have lasted for two weeks before dying a horrible death," Suzanne said.
"There was no way I was going to let that happen - and the more you tell me that something can't be done, the more I am determined to do it."
After a long, hard three days David and Shandon went home together.
Well done to all concerned.
- Find out more about AHAR on their Facebook page and website