Volunteers rescue pets in peril: ‘It’s so rewarding’

Animals

The Oregon Humane Society Technical Animal Rescue Team trains to save stranded and trapped pets

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Behind many difficult animal rescues are some big-hearted heroes who train hard to save the lives of our 4-legged companions.

Volunteers with the Oregon Humane Society Technical Animal Rescue Team, or OHSTAR, get together about once a month to train for a wide variety of situations.

Their training doesn’t just take into account the challenges of terrain but also the obstacles presented by different species.

Roark Roberts is a volunteer with the Oregon Humane Society Technical Animal Rescue Team (OHSTAR), Aug. 28, 2019. (KOIN)

“A dog that falls off a cliff is very different than a cat in a tree because a dog that falls off a cliff has been injured at some point and they’re really glad to see you and they’re a dog so they come to you, where a cat in a tree is a whole different experience,” said OHSTAR volunteer Roark Roberts.

KOIN 6 News tagged along with the OHSTAR team as they carried out a recent drill involving a stuffed dog that had fallen over a cliff.

During the drill, Roberts played the role of the “edge minder” — the one who monitors the rescuer who goes over the edge.

In this case, that person was Viriginia Krakowiak. She went over the edge and successfully hoisted the fake dog up the side of the hill with the help of her team — and many ropes.

A volunteer with the Oregon Humane Society Technical Animal Rescue Team (OHSTAR) is lowered into a ravine as part of a drill to save a fake dog, Aug. 28, 2019. (KOIN)

The dog-over-a-cliff scenario is one the group has dealt with countless times in real life, especially during the summer months when there are more hikers out with their dogs.

A volunteer with the Oregon Humane Society Technical Animal Rescue Team (OHSTAR) is pulled out of a ravine as part of a drill to save a fake dog, Aug. 28, 2019. (KOIN)

“People don’t know that maybe there’s nothing on the other side and dogs especially don’t know about a big drop-off,” Krakowiak said. “They hear water and they just go for it.”

Just last month, the OHSTAR team was called about a dog stranded for days on a steep hillside in Canby. The rescuers used a drone to survey the hillside, then lowered a team member about 75 feet to the distressed canine.

The older Australian shepherd mix was pulled to safety — hungry and thirsty, but unhurt.

There are different steps of certification for volunteering with OHSTAR. The team also depends on donations to keep the organization going and to buy equipment.

OHSTAR demands a lot from its volunteers — and it’s not even their fulltime job. But it’s probably their favorite.

“It’s so rewarding,” said Roberts. “When you go down and help someone find their animal — a dog that’s fallen off a cliff or a cat or help someone in a hoarding case. It’s just a lovely, lovely feeling.”

Learn about becoming an OHSTAR volunteer.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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