February 23, 2012 | Vol. 42 No. 7

Pup dogged by cliff, gets helping hand

Despite his name and breed, Klondike, a Bernese Mountain Dog, found himself in a precarious situation over the weekend when he was trapped on a rocky ledge with no way out. But he kept his wits about him and thanks to some agile human friends, Klondike was safely recovered.

Climber Joe Oesterling assists Klondike off a cliff near Mud Bay Road on Saturday.

Five-year-old Klondike belongs to the Podsiki family, who have had him since a puppy. Early Saturday morning, Greg Podsiki said he let Klondike outside at their Carrs Cove home, like usual.

“He doesn’t wander much and always comes when I whistle,” Podsiki said.

But after an hour absence, Podsiki said he began to worry and thought the worst when he received a phone call from Haines Police officer Simon Ford.

“He said, ‘He’s not dead, but he’s not exactly OK. He’s stuck on a cliff,’” Podsiki said.

Neighbor Ray Chapin first notified the police when he was walking near the Mud Bay and Small Tracts Road intersection near the beach. About the same time, HARK employee Tracy Mikowski was on patrol and driving on Mud Bay Road. She saw some people gathered in the area looking up at the cliff. Shortly after, she got a call from HARK director Steve Vick, who told her he’d received a call from police about the trapped dog.

“I said, ‘I think I know exactly where you’re talking about,’” she said.

Mikowski said when she arrived at the scene she noticed Klondike was clearly stuck. He wasn’t able to turn around, or even sit down on the small, uneven ledge he was wedged on, about 60 feet from the bottom. He was angled so most of his weight was on his front feet.

“The only thing he could do was go face first down that cliff,” she said.

Mikowski said it was obvious Klondike was tired and stressed as he panted heavily. But the dog noticeably calmed down when Podsiki arrived at the scene.

“He definitely perked up when Greg came,” she said. “There was some relief there.”

But Podsiki was unable to reach Klondike either from the top of the cliff or from the bottom of the hill, he said.

“I thought, ‘How in the world did he get there?’” Podsiki said.

Mikowski said officer Ford mentioned he’d seen several people from Alaska Mountain Guides early that morning heading out of town and wondered if there were any other skilled rock climbers in town that might be able to assist Klondike. So Mikowski called her husband, Joe Oesterling, a climber who guides in the summers in Skagway.

Oesterling came to the scene with his climbing equipment. He was able to anchor from the top of the cliff, rappel down to Klondike and harness the dog to him. Mikowski said Oesterling did his best to keep the 80-pound Klondike calm, but the dog started to panic as the duo began rapelling from the cliff and the dog started to come loose from the harness.

“Joe lost his grip on his brake line and they actually came down a little quickly,” Mikowski said. “But safely.”

At the bottom, Mikowski said she checked Klondike over for any injuries, but aside from still being scared, he was healthy and went home with Podsiki, where he took a well deserved rest.

“He drank lots of water and then just laid down for a couple hours,” Podsiki said.

Podsiki said he has no idea how Klondike got stuck on the cliff, whether he was trying to climb down the cliff or may have fallen from the top.

“He’s a mountain dog, but I didn’t think he’d been out climbing cliffs,” Podsiki said.