Sprocker Ella left with collapsed and bruised lungs after three-hour drama
A brave sprocker spaniel saved her own life by swimming for a quarter of a mile with a collapsed lung — after falling into a giant quarry.
Mischievous Ella went chasing after a deer while on a walk with owners Francesca and Colin West. She wriggled under a fence, disappeared into trees and never came back.
After frantically calling out Ella’s name for two and a half hours and searching for her to no avail, Francesca and Colin feared the worst.
In a forlorn last effort to find her, desperate Colin decided he had no option but to climb over fencing into the sealed-off quarry at Mugdock Country Park near Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire.
With Francesca screaming at him not to risk his life, inch-by-inch Colin made his way to the edge of the flooded quarry.
As he peered down, he clapped eyes on Ella marooned on a grassy bank 100ft below him at the bottom of a cliff.
He yelled to Francesca: “I can see her, I can see her.” Francesca screamed back: “Is she dead? Please tell me she’s not dead.”
Colin yelled: “No, she’s alive, she’s looking up at me.”
What followed was a nerve-wracking three-hour drama involving three fire crews, one mountain rescue team, a posse of well-wishers — and one courageous black and white dog.
Ella was clearly freezing cold and looked like she was digging to try to keep herself warm.
But the spot she was at was utterly inaccessible. Colin called 101 on his mobile to ask for help.
Much to his and Francesca’s relief, three fire and rescue appliances arrived from Milngavie, Knightswood in Glasgow and Stirling, 30 miles away.
Then a team of mountain rescuers arrived as well — but the sheer drop down the cliff was too steep for them to attempt a descent.
With time running out, firefighters unloaded a rescue boat in the hope they could sail across the quarry from the nearest road to pluck Ella to safety.
Francesca West Ella's owner
“We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who helped Ella that day: the fire service, mountain rescue, as well as all the volunteers and other dog walkers who came to help look for her."
The fire crews set about hacking through the undergrowth to try and force a path for the boat – but the trees and bushes at the waterside were just too thick to get it through.
By that point, the only hope for Ella was to swim the quarter of a mile from where she’d landed to the rocks where Colin and the fire crews were gathered.
At the top of his voice, Colin began calling: “Ella, Ella.”
Ella, who will be two years old in June, rushed into the filthy stagnant water — used in the past for moody murder scenes in TV crime series Taggart — and began to swim.
Picking up speed as she went, she got closer and closer to shore. Her heroics were captured on amazing video filmed from the top of the cliff by volunteer dog rescuers.
The video starts half-way through the swim and ends with Colin scooping Ella up into his arms from the water.
As he does so, the firefighter next to him throws his hands up in the air with joy and shouts out: “Yaaas.”
But what no-one knew then was that Ella had managed to do her swim with a punctured lung sustained in the fall.
She also had fluid on her lungs — which meant she’d come very close to drowning.
The injuries only came to light two days after the rescue – when Ella was sent for x-rays at the Vets Now pet emergency hospital in Glasgow.
Francesca said: “When Colin got Ella out of the water, her breathing was awful. She was gasping for breath; you could hear her the rattle from her chest. It was awful.
“One of the firefighters wrapped her in his coat to keep her warm, and we rushed her off to our local vets to get checked out. The vet opened specially for us.”
Mother-of-one Francesca, 56, who is a trained nurse, said: “Ella got antibiotics and painkillers which helped a lot, but by the Tuesday her breathing still wasn’t right.
“So our vet referred us to the Vets Now hospital to get her checked out.
“I couldn’t believe it when they told us. She’d swum all that way with a collapsed lung. What a dog!”
Tobias Grave, a specialist in emergency and critical care at Vets Now’s pet emergency hospital in Glasgow, said Ella’s case was one of the most extraordinary he had ever come across.
He added: “When Ella was referred to us she was bright and responsive, but our examinations showed she was suffering from collapsed lungs and bruising of the lungs.
“We performed what’s called a bilateral thoracentesis to remove air from both the right and left lungs. Thankfully, Ella recovered well from the procedure, and her owners were advised how to care for her at home and how to monitor her for worsening respiratory signs.
“She’s certainly been through the wars, and we’re delighted to hear she’s now well on the road to recovery.”
IT consultant Colin, 49, said: “I grew up near that quarry and it always was a scary place.
“It was a real life moment when I realised she had gone over and then when I climbed over to the edge and looked down-unbelievable to see her sitting 100ft down looking at me as if she was waiting for her dinner!
“So many people find it hard to understand how amazing animals are. But the truth is that Ella is a phenomenon to have lasted all those hours in that condition.”
Full of energy, Ella is now totally recovered and back to her normal self. But Colin and Francesca won’t be letting her off her lead again in the near future.
Francesca said: “No, definitely not, she’ll be staying on the long lead and harness for the time being.
“It’s not the first mishap she’s had. She ran into a wasps nest when she was a puppy and came out absolutely covered in wasps and stings.
“Another time she sprinted off into the sea to chase a seagull and we thought we’d never get her back.
“Now we’ve had this drama – which I sincerely hope is the last!
“We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who helped Ella that day: the fire service, the mountain rescue, as well as all the volunteers and other dog walkers who came to help look for her.
“Colin and I just want to say thank you to them all.”