Emotions run high as sheepdog finally freed from depths of tomo

People love their animals and one-time mountain guide Adam Fox reckons his last-ditch rescue of a sheepdog jammed down a five-metre tomo at Te Mata last week caused “more fuss” than the time he plucked a climber off a 300-metre cliff back in the United States.

Adam was fearing there might be a less-than-happy outcome as he drove out after dark on a gravel road “way past Bridal Veil Falls” to see if Tye could be retrieved.

But what he wasn’t prepared for was to find “two gruff farmers nearly in tears” – as was his wife, Megan – after he finally surfaced with the terrified dog.

Tye had slipped off a rock into a tomo hours earlier in the day while heading off a couple of sheep on Giles Lusty’s farm. And although he’d been barking sporadically throughout the afternoon as the fire service attempted a rescue, by night he’d become silent.

“I thought it (the dog) was probably a goner,” Adam told the Chronicle. He’d figured there was less than a five percent chance his rescue attempt would end well.

But the Raglan resident who once trained American special forces and SWAT teams – as well as conducting risky mountain rescues – had to give it his best shot. “The thought of the dog being left down there was awful.”

Hooking up a rope to the farmer’s four-wheeler, Adam abseiled into the narrow cave and had to shimmy down on a 45 -degree angle.

It was “really tight … horrible”,  the 47 year old said, adding: “I hate caves.”

But then he heard a whimper and got far enough down to touch the dog’s head with his toe. Tye had become jammed vertically while trying to scrabble upwards.

“I shouted out (to those above) to get a shepherd’s crook dropped to me,” said Adam who then managed to pull the dog up by the neck so he could grab its collar and get it above him. Then he could push Tye back up the cave with one hand while making his ascent.

All up the rescue took about 15 minutes, and Adam’s reception was more emotional than he’d expected.  The two farmers – Giles and his neighbour – were “so relieved”, he said.

Giles Lusty told the Stuff website he rated Tye, his working dog of nine years,  “as one of my best friends”.

Adam, incidentally, later messaged the United States man he once rescued from a cliff, and with whom he is now a Facebook friend.

“I told him that ‘people were making more of a fuss of a dog than they did of you when I got you off a mountain’,” Adam joked.

His American rescue was also a last-ditch attempt as three different search-and-rescue teams had failed to get the man off the cliff.

Adam is these days taking a break from guiding – which he describes as a high-risk job in which he’s lost many friends over the years – and running his own tiny homes business, Fox Cabins, out of Hamilton.

Edith Symes