When a German Shepherd got stuck in L.A.’s concrete river with no way out, his only hope was one brave man who climbed down to save him. But the stray dog surprised everyone with his reaction when the rescuer finally approached him.
The concrete aqueduct spanning the city of Los Angeles is wide, deep and far-reaching. Built in the late 1930s to help control floods, the 51-mile-long channel directs the course of the Los Angeles River through to the ocean. But since the city gets very little rainfall, the canal is usually dry.
Today, the structure is more famous for Hollywood car chases in movies such as Transformers. But for many locals the watercourse is nothing more than a dangerous eyesore. Indeed, chain-linked fences on either side of the steep channel are meant to keep people and animals out, but accidents still happen. So when a dog managed to get stuck at the bottom, some locals banded together to help.
The German Shepherd was likely spotted from one of the many homes lining the L.A. River. Often the properties have only a fence separating their yards from the canal’s steep embankment, so it was perhaps thought that the dog belonged to someone. In any case, concerned citizens continued to throw food to the animal for weeks before finding help.
When animal rescue organization Hope for Paws received a panicked call about a dog stuck in the aqueduct, it’s staff responded without delay. Indeed, the L.A.-based nonprofit was created to help animals in situations just like this.
Eldad Hagar, Hope for Paws’ founder, personally goes to great lengths to rescue animals from dangerous and otherwise hopeless situations. But this particular rescue mission would challenge Hagar to confront his deepest fears.
Biggie, the name given to the helpless pup, had likely been a stray for five years by the time he was spotted in the river channel. And however Biggie had ended up in the aqueduct, he was now quite stuck – with no exit from the concrete highway for miles.
The Hope for Paws team arrived at the scene and began filming what was to be a challenging rescue attempt. The first shot of Biggie shows the German Shepherd lying with perched ears at the bottom of the canal. He looks weary but perhaps hopeful as he notices people gathering above him.
Unfortunately, between Biggie and his rescuers was a steep 20-foot drop and a tall chain-linked fence. There was no way to get up or down as far as the eye could see. “We were not equipped for this unique challenge,” said Hagar in the Hope for Paws YouTube video of the rescue.
“[But] neighbors offered their help and quickly gathered equipment for us,” he added. In fact, someone gave Hagar and his team a ladder so that they could reach the dog. However, as they started lowering the ladder down through a hole in the fence, it started to break.
Thinking quickly, Hagar tied the ladder back together using a leash he had on hand. “Since it was a 20-foot drop and we had no safety gear, I went down alone,” he explained. This was especially impressive because, in order to do so, Hagar had to conquer his fear of heights.
Thankfully, Hagar made it safely down the ladder and into the aqueduct. Dropping treats on the ground as he walked backward, Hagar slowly coaxed the German Shepherd. Not surprisingly, Biggie seemed nervous; though he quickly ate the treats, he eyed Hagar suspiciously.
Then Hagar pulled out a leash, which frightened Biggie, who retreated with his tail between his legs. Meanwhile, volunteers lowered a cage over the fence that would be used to hoist Biggie from the dry river to safety.
With some calm affection, Hagar got Biggie to cautiously lie down on the ground. Then the rescuer began to pet the dog and scratch his ears. For perhaps the first time in a long while, it looked like Biggie was starting to feel safe. So as to not frighten him again, then, Hagar covered the dog’s eyes as he gently placed the leash around his neck.
With the leash secured, Biggie stood up and leaned against Hagar with his tail wagging. Hagar then picked up the dog and placed him in the cage. Next, though, came the risky business of hoisting Biggie out of the 20-foot ditch and over the chain-linked fence. Indeed, it took three volunteers pulling on ropes to gradually lift Biggie’s cage to safety.
When Biggie finally made it out of the river, a group of children watching the scene cheered. And things were looking up for Biggie in another way, too: Hagar’s friend Tiffany Norton, from Coastal German Shepherd Rescue, happily fostered the dog as he awaited adoption.
“Currently Biggie can be a little shy, but after only a minute or two of introductions, he becomes a flawless companion. This guy is a quiet lover, a gentle friend and a subtle soul,” Coastal German Shepherd Rescue reported on The Pet Blog Lady.
These endearing qualities were bound to work in Biggie’s favor. Indeed, he was soon adopted and now, apparently, even has a girlfriend. His coat is full and healthy, and he looks like a whole new dog. But best of all, he has a loving home far from the horrors of the L.A. aqueduct.