Stranded dog rescued from hard-to-reach side of Nooksack River

Volunteers rescue a stranded dog along the Nooksack River on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 27, 2016.
Volunteers rescue a stranded dog along the Nooksack River on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 27, 2016. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A swift-water rescue team saved a dog stranded on a steep bank along the Nooksack River on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 27, near Glacier.

A woman who was staying in a cabin in the Snowline community heard barking Friday, from the north side of the river, about a mile east of the town of Glacier, according to a 1,500-word post on the Washington State Animal Response Team’s Facebook page. She hiked along the river until she saw a dog — what looked like a wet white-and-brown spaniel mix — on the opposite shore. There, the river is book-ended by rapids.

She called for help, and by the next morning, a crew of about 20 volunteers from WASART and Summit to Sound Search & Rescue had driven to the scene and hiked about a quarter-mile to the river’s edge.

“As soon as the dog saw us, he started barking,” reads the post on the WASART page. “He wanted our attention. His tail wagged low and slowly. He barked at the swift water team, then noticed the other teams taking their places and ran and slipped down the bank to bark at them.”

One rescuer, a woman in a drysuit, swam the breadth of the river to anchor ropes on the other side. Around noon, lines had been strung across the river and a second rescuer, a man, rode an inflatable raft to the other side, said Michaela Eaves, a spokeswoman for WASART. The crew relayed gear to the north side.

The dog was wary but hungry, and cans of wet dog food lured him closer. But he slipped on slick rocks twice, and retreated uphill. One rescuer climbed a steep slope covered in Devil’s Club to reach the dog. She caught him, and the second rescuer went up to help bring the dog down.

“He didn’t growl or try to bite or anything,” Eaves said.

The dog — an unneutered male — was wet, cold and underweight, and it looked as though he had been exposed to the elements for at least a couple of days. He wore a blue collar, but he had no tags and no microchip.

Around 3 p.m. one of the rescuers held the dog’s head above water with one hand, and held the raft with the other as she was pulled back across the river to the south side. Shortly after the “bath” in the Nooksack, Eaves said, the dog was taken to a veterinarian. He seemed very tired.

As of Monday, no owner had been identified, and crews don’t know how the dog ended up stranded. A Forest Service road, known as Canyon Creek Road, and the popular Horseshoe Bend Trail are nearby, just to the north of the river.

He’s now in the care of the Whatcom Humane Society, and if an owner doesn’t come forward, he’ll be put up for adoption.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb