On a recent Saturday, I show up at Rocky Butte at 9 am, coffee in hand. I’m there with my OHS Technical Animal Rescue teammates to practice high-angle rescue. We do this so we’re ready in case a dog falls off a cliff while they are hiking with their families—a situation we have encountered more than once.
There are only a handful of agencies in the United States that have their own technical animal rescue team, and I’m proud to say I’m a member of one of them. The OHS Technical Animal Rescue team (OHSTAR) springs into action any time there is a cat or dog that can’t be rescued or retrieved without technical rescue skills like ropework, rigging, and knot tying.
Stories about OHSTAR missions, like the rescues of Ranger, Sandy, and Kenny, have made international news. I participated in all three of those rescues, and I’m happy to say all three dogs are now doing well.
Without ongoing training, we wouldn’t be able to make these rescues happen. Due to the generosity of OHS supporters, the OHSTAR team has very specialized gear. We need to train every month to keep our skills sharp in case of an animal emergency. At any OHSTAR training or rescue, we have eight basic roles, and we must each train for all of them.
At the Kenny and Ranger rescues, I was the “edgeminder.” The edgeminder stays in contact with the rescuer the entire time s/he is over the cliff’s edge, and communicates any needs to the rest of the team—such as when they need to be lowered more slowly or pick up slack in one of the lines.
It’s easy to envision what the rescuer does: they’re the one who is lowered down the cliff to scoop up the animal and bring him or her to safety. The other roles are less glamorous, but just as important. When I am practicing to be the rescuer, I literally trust the other seven people on my team with my life. Building that kind of trust takes time and practice.
Back at our Saturday training at Rocky Butte, we each rotate through all eight roles so that everyone gets plenty of practice setting anchors, threading rope, and using the radios. We currently have seven members who have been on our team for less than six months, so right now we’re focusing on the basics.
Video: OHSTAR Training in Progress
You Can Join OHSTAR!
You don’t need any special skills to join the OHSTAR team. We teach our members everything they need to know. Anyone who has completed the regular OHS volunteer orientation can apply. Our next OHSTAR orientation for new members will be in early fall 2016, and we’re accepting applications now. Come train with us!
Contributed by OHSTAR volunteer Angela Modzelewski
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