Finding Felix: A Christmas ‘tail’ of survival

Photo by Matt Verley

When Sarah Stremming took her dog Felix out for a Christmas Day walk along the trails above Indian Beach, she never thought for a moment it all could go awry – but after Felix disappeared and wouldn’t come when he was called, his owner’s panic soon set in, spurring a Christmas Day search to find Felix.

By Brian Cameron
“I panicked, I knew pretty immediately that he had gone over the cliff,” Felix’s owner Sarah Stremming, said. “He just wouldn’t run off and not come when I call him. I knew he was stuck somewhere and I assumed it was cliffside because he loves the water and he may have seen the ocean below.”
Felix, a two-and-a-half year old Border Collie, accompanied by Stremming were walking the trails above Indian Beach, just north of Cannon Beach at Ecola State Park. He had vanished for just a moment and when Stremming called him back, he was nowhere to be found.
Stremming, 32, from Marysville, Wash. in the greater Seattle metropolitan area, runs a professional dog training service called The Cognitive Canine and also runs a blog and podcast focused around training the trusty canine. When Felix didn’t respond to her usual calls, she knew something was wrong.
“Honestly I knew he was down there, so when we actually had eyes on him, I was just so happy he was alive and we could start moving to get him out,” said Stremming.
The first call to emergency responders regarding the missing dog came in around 3 p.m. on Christmas Day, but it wasn’t until around 9 a.m. the following day that Felix was found and the daring rescue could commence.
“It was a very steep cliff face the dog was stuck on,” said Chief Matt Benedict, Cannon Beach Fire and Rescue. “Thankfully, the dog wasn’t visibly injured and he was able to walk out of the incident relatively unscathed.”
According to Benedict, the rescue involved team members from not only Cannon Beach Fire and Rescue, but Seaside Fire and Rescue as well as Chief Matt Verley with the Hamlet Rural Fire Protection District, who assisted the effort with his own personal aerial drone.
“It was definitely a high-angle rescue operation,” said Benedict. “However, we simply would not have been able to locate the dog and plan a rescue had it not been for Chief Verley’s drone – it was instrumental in the process.”
Initially, Benedict had heard about the missing dog via their agency Facebook page and shortly thereafter the official call went out. From there, the effort combined concerned citizens, online Facebook and social media forces and ultimately a rope-rescue team that eventually facilitated Felix’s rescue.
“Felix didn’t have any serious injuries, just a few scrapes on his back legs, it’s incredible,” said Stremming. “He has been very fatigued so far, just exhausted, but overall he is himself, snuggly, sweet and wanting to play.”
Chief Benedict mentioned that the dog was showing no signs of severe physical injury, however, did appear to be slightly hypothermic after spending the night in the cold coastal climate.
Once reunited with his owner, Felix showed the kind of appreciation only an excited canine companion can muster – with face-licks galore, Felix found his family.
“I’d like to add that Chief Verley and the rope rescue team are my heroes,” said Stremming. “Felix means the world to me and they didn’t hesitate, didn’t say ‘this is just a dog,’ they just got to work.”
Felix is now back home in Marysville with Stremming, no worse for wear and a happy pup indeed.

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