'Bawlie' - The Over Zealous Climbing Coon Dawg
(early December 2015)
"Bawlie" is a 40-lb, 10 month old coon dog that was over zealous in his coon-treeing duties, and found himself 30 ft up a tree with no way down in the Canal Section WMA near Amory MS. He got stuck at 8:00 pm on a Monday night, and I was contacted by MDWFP employees at noon on Tuesday. I rushed to Amory, met with his owner, Mr. Louis Dean, who led me to his tree in the WMA. After some careful work, we were able to get him down safely. The photo on the right shows his location in the tree, click on the image and zoom and you can see his nose sticking out in the sunlight. There is no video as my camera malfunctioned. Many thanks to Mr. Dean for his very generous donation to the Oktibbeha County Humane Society!
It was noon on a Tuesday, and I was in my office working when the Kat Fone yowled. The caller identified himself as Chris Spigner, a contractual worker for Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, and he said that the Tupelo Fire department recommended me for getting 'things out of trees'. I said -- "Yep, I do that, what is stuck?" He said, "Well, you might not believe this, but we have a coon dog stuck 30 feet up a tree". I was silent for a moment, and wondered if this was a prank call. I asked "Are you sure that it is a dog?" as I could not imagine a dog climbing that high. He said "Heck yeah, I am looking right him!". Suitably chastised, I received contact information for his owner and said that I would rush right out, as I had no idea how long the dog could maintain his hold in the tree. Mr. Louis Dean, who owned the coon dog, arranged to meet me in Amory at a gas station.
When I arrived in Amory, I met with Mr. Dean, who then led me out to the WMA which was several miles out of town. When we parked the truck, Louis gave me two choices - a 300 yard walk that required a wade through a slough, or a 600 yard walk that would keep me dry. I opted for the dry 600 yard walk, and together we lugged my gear through the woods. "Bawlie" was wearing a GPS collar, and Louis kept checking his bearing as we made our way through the woods. We actually passed Bawlie's tree and had to backtrack. When we reached the tree, I could not believe what I was seeing. Bawlie was 30 feet up, and in a large union, with his front feet and head hanging out the front and his back legs tucked up underneath him. His tree (still alive) had fallen into another tree, and was leaning at a 70 degree angle. The angle is what allowed him up the tree, even though I would have said before hand that it was way too steep for a dog to climb.
I realized when we reached the tree, that I had forgotten the tarps in my truck. I wanted to set out tarps as I was unsure how Bawlie would react to my climbing, and any movement by him would cause him to fall. I did not know if the tarps would hold due to his weight, but I figured it would at least cushion his fall a bit. Mr. Dean went back the 'short' 300 yard way across the slough, and returned with the tarps. Meanwhile, I had been scouting the tree and located a good tie-in point at the 50 ft level in the tree that Bawlie's tree was leaning on. When Mr. Dean returned, we set out one tarp directly under Bawlie. Mr. Dean then proceeded to set up a second tarp while I installed a climbing line. My first attempt was a bad miss, and my throwline got hopelessly tangled. I went to a back up throwline, and on my third attempt hit the 50 ft tie-in point. I installed a climbing line, and started up. My plan was to climb above Bawlie, to the point where his leaning tree was resting against my tree, and then make my way down the trunk to Bawlie. During the entire setup and climb, Bawlie was very still in his perch -- he would occasionally try to push with his back legs to get himself a little further up into the union, but he looked very tired and his attempts were feeble.
When I reached the point where the two trees touched, I was about 10 ft above Bawlie. I put a lanyard around the leaning tree, then went on the backside of the trunk to where I would have better access to Bawlie, and started carefully walking down Bawlie's leaning tree. I finally reached Bawlie, and with a sigh of relief, was able to attach a lanyard to Bawlie's collar. Bawlie wagged his tail at my touch, but stayed very still. I was able to wedge myself by Bawlie, and help keep him in the union with my legs while I worked on a method to get him down. On the drive up, I called a fellow cat rescuer (Randall Kolb, catrescueguy.com) for advice on this unusual rescue, and we discussed various harnessing methods. I ended up using three 48" nylon webbing loops, each one criss-crossing a different way around his chest and front legs, with all three captured in a common carbiner tied to a lowering rope. Once I was satisfied with the harness, I lifted Bawlie (40 lbs!) and started lowering him. Right before he reached the tarp, I realized that I had only used a 25 ft rope, so I quickly attach one of my lanyards to the end of the rope to get him all the way to ground. Once on the ground, Bawlie quickly recovered and was soon wagging his tail and walking around normally. He even bayed a few times in classic coon dog fashion to show how happy he was to be out of the tree! The picture below was taken by myself right after the rescue, with Mr. Dean proudly showing off Bawlie's form! There is no video, as my camera decided to start up in picture mode instead of video mode for some reason -- oh well -- I am just over joyed that this rescue was successful as many, many things could have gone wrong. Bawlie was the perfect dog in terms of doing everything in his power to make my rescue easier. This is definitely my most memorable rescue to date!