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Dog missing after cliff plunge rescued by caregivers

Firefighter brings rescued man up hillside to waiting rescuers. Signal photo by Cory Rubin.

When firefighters rappelled down the side of a steep embankment to rescue a driver whose car had gone over a precipice on Sand Canyon Road last week, they learned that one of the car’s occupants had, until now, eluded them — a pup named Bella.


The dog was plucked from the wild environs of the Angeles National Forest by the very people trained in helping animals.

Heather Graham, an employee of Wildlife Way Station on Little Tujunga Canyon Road, which winds its way through the mountains separating the Santa Clarita Valley from Sunland, spotted the puppy by itself in the rough terrain. This after a frantic weekend-long effort to find the 3-month-old dog.

“Heather was on her way to work, driving on Sand Canyon Road, when she found (Bella),” Deanna Armbruster, spokeswoman for the Way Station, said Monday.

“She followed the dog and waited until she found a safe place to pull over to the side of the road,” she said. “She jumped out and the dog ran off a bit. But, she was able to calm her (Bella) down and put her in the car. And, then she brought her here.”

The dog, found within 24 hours of the crash, was described as dehydrated and hungry when it was brought to safety.

Rescuers at the Way Station found the dog’s owner on social media and arranged for them to pick up the dog.

“(The dog’s owners) came here with children and the kids were very happy,” Armbruster said, noting the pup recognized the owners and was just as pleased.

The Wildlife Way Station is a 160-acre animal sanctuary dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating wild and exotic animals. It began taking care of animals in 1976, when Way Station founder Martine Colette brought a mountain lion to the refuge.


The refuge has saved more than 77,000 animals over the past four decades. On Tuesday, June 24, the man whose car plunged over a cliff off of Sand Canyon Road was rescued by cliff-rappelling firefighters as he clung to the side of the embankment.

Shortly before 5:25 p.m., on June 24, the motorist drove over a cliff off of Sand Canyon, about a mile and a half south of Placerita Canyon Road, near Mile Marker 6.

The man was pulled to safety, but the dog that was in the car left the crash site.

“Bella has been found,” Sheila Harborskys, a friend of the dog’s owner, stated in an email Sunday. “There was a lady there that saw the pup and went on social media to see if she could find someone who lost a puppy and found (the) posting of Bella.”

“That puppy has a guardian angel because she must have crossed several mountain ranges to get to Wildlife Way Station — next is to get her (a GPS microchip).”

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