Practicing to Save Lives

Contributed by Cecil Reniche-Smith, OHS Volunteer & OHSTAR team member

OHSTAR: Oregon Humane Society Technical Animal Rescue Team
OHSTAR: Oregon Humane Society Technical Animal Rescue Team

It’s an old joke: a tourist in New York City asks a passerby, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” and is told “Practice, practice, practice.” For the OHS Technical Animal Rescue Team (OHSTAR), however, “practice” is no joke. When a life is literally on the line, everyone involved in the rescue must perform with the highest levels of skill and technical ability. And so we practice, practice, practice.

We practice rain or shine, because we do not have the option of waiting for better weather when we receive the call to action. Here are some highlights of recent OHSTAR training days.

Rappelling Practice

Recently, we gathered at the Boring Fire and Rescue training tower for a rappelling session. Rappelling is a controlled descent of a vertical drop, such as a rock face, using a rope.

OHSTAR specializes in rescuing dogs that have fallen over cliffs, so this is a necessary skill for any team member who wants to take on the role of rescuer. In a real rescue situation, the rescuer is the person who descends the cliff by rope to reach the stranded dog.

Here, for practice, our vertical drop was the side of the training tower. Some of us are old hands at rappelling, but for others it was the first time.

The Mock Rescue

Working together at Rocky Butte
Working together at Rocky Butte

Another training method we rely on is the mock rescue. Our most recent mock rescue was in September at Rocky Butte, a popular hiking and rock climbing site in northeast Portland.

After arriving at the site, the team went into action, staking out the best anchors for our lines, setting up the ropes systems and lowering the rescuer down a cliffside. Because of the nature of the mock rescue, we needed four separate ropes systems: two to lower and raise the rescuer, and two to lower and raise an assistant for the rescuer in case anything went wrong.

It was cold and rainy, which made everything more difficult—but this is Oregon: we can’t let a little rain stop us!

Photos from both training exercises:

Who is OHSTAR?

The OHSTAR team is made up of Oregon Humane Society volunteers who have devoted themselves to learning the technical skills necessary to reduce animals in peril. A person does not have to already have those skills to join the team. Through our monthly training sessions and additional trainings, we learn the skills we need, and hone the skills we already have. Learn more about OHSTAR here.

Training with OHSTAR »

Santiam Forest Rescue »

Christmas Rescue »