It was a clear January day when a San Francisco resident decided to go for a jog along the beach. The wind howled as he ran down the shoreline, but a strange sound slipped through the breeze and stopped him in his tracks.
“He heard a muffled bark, but there was no one in sight,” animal control officer Carlos Ortega told The Dodo.
The Good Samaritan decided to look around the steep, rocky cliffs lining the beach for the source of the sound. A few minutes into his search, he peered down into a rock structure and saw a pair of eyes staring at him.
Without skipping a beat, the man called his local animal control center San Francisco Animal Care & Control and told dispatchers who he’d found. That’s when they called Ortega.
Ortega made his way to the beach as quickly as possible. The tide was getting higher, and soon in the rocks would soon be flooded.
“She didn’t really have a lot of time to be in that situation without harm coming over her,” Ortega said. “The tide was coming in, so I had to work fast.”
The jogger left before Ortega reached the beach, but he made sure to send the rescue team a pin of the dog’s location and a picture of the rock structure before doing so. Ortega then used the information to find the exact rock pile the dog was trapped under.
“I started looking at all the rocks on the cliffside, trying to match the pattern of the rocks in the picture with what I was looking at in front of me,” Ortega said. “But the entire area looked identical to what the picture looked like.”
After 15 minutes of searching, Ortega successfully located the rock pattern from the picture. Then, he started looking in every crevice, trying to find an open space big enough for a dog to hide in.
The rescuer was winded from canvassing the rocks alone, so he decided to call his colleagues for backup. As he reached for his phone, Ortega took one more look at the rocks and made an exciting discovery.
“I looked down and saw Gwen staring up at me,” Ortega said. “She was shivering, but she didn’t make a peep. Not a single sound.”
Ortega immediately started strategizing a plan for removing the rocks above Gwen without hurting her. Eventually, he was able to lift the top rock off and push it down the cliff, revealing a weary Gwen.
“I reached down and pet her,” Ortega said. “She stopped shaking for a second and moved closer to me while I was petting her. That was a good sign.”
Once he gained her trust, Ortega put a leash around the pup for safety and carefully lifted her out of her rock cave. He checked her over for injuries, which she was clear of, then snapped a sweet selfie with his new friend.
“She was nice and calm,” Ortega said. “She just nuzzled up to me.”
The officer brought Gwen back to his truck, where he scanned her for a microchip. The scanner successfully identified her microchip and, within a few minutes, he’d located Gwen’s family.
Ortega soon learned that Gwen’s family had been looking for her for hours after the pup escaped earlier that morning. As soon as he got their address, Ortega went straight to Gwen’s house to reunite her with her family.
Gwen ran into her family’s arms as soon as she saw them, and hasn’t left their side since. Ortega is happy that Gwen’s story had a happy ending, which he credits to the team effort it took to save her.
“The only way a rescue like this can happen is with a team effort and help from the public,” Ortega said. “Because the jogger was able to give us such pertinent information and the dispatchers asked the right questions, we found her just in time.”
Ortega has since gone on to perform more rescues, but the moment he found Gwen will stay with him forever.
“Coming to work every day, you have the potential of changing someone’s life,” Ortega said. “In this case, it was Gwen and her family.”
To help animals like Gwen get the care they need, make a donation to San Francisco Animal Care & Control.