Diesel the dog is very lucky to be alive after he was led to safety during a dramatic cliffside recue.

His owners have now paid tribute to the Coastguard rescue team and other volunteers who saved their pet’s life after he became stranded 200 metres down a coastal cliff face in the north of the island.

Phil Mason had taken Diesel out for his regular walk on the Barony Estate last Friday afternoon when the four-year-old German shepherd suddenly disappeared.

Phil’s wife Helen said: ‘He is walked out there twice a day, generally off the lead as the farmer presently does not have any stock in close proximity.

‘It’s a regular route and involves feeding the wild birds at the half way point. It’s generally a safe relaxing route and we walk it with grateful thanks to the owner of the Barony Estate and the farmer.

‘Having reached “Sparrow Central”, my husband started to put the bird food out. Diesel was by his side. Then he wasn’t.

‘The only thing that made sense was that Diesel had gone off after a rabbit or, far more likely, a wild goat.’

The couple rehomed Diesel about 18 months ago. Helen said: ‘Diesel was not a country dog and he has had to try and learn country ways.  ‘He is about as friendly as they come. Probably too friendly. He is big and he has no idea of his own size. He is clumsy. He is extremely hairy and he ‘winters well’ as the saying goes.

A coastguard volunteer leads Diesel to safety
(Ramsey Coastguard)

‘These last two things probably kept him alive.’ When Diesel went missing, the Masons immediately contacted their loyal network of friends to try to find him. 

Helen said the distance between where Diesel went missing and where he was found was the length of a field followed by a drop over the cliffside.  This area was searched on the Friday by friends and a drone until light was lost.

They wouldn’t have known they had been directly above him many times.

Because of the overhang he could not be seen, and had not been heard.

The drone was restricted by wind on the Friday so had been unable to get far enough off the cliff-face.

Phil stayed out all night repeatedly returning to the spot where the dog went missing.

At first light he was once more joined by friends including Nigel Revill from the Barony Estate and Ian Scott with his drone.

Nigel and Phil again scoured the walls along the cliff side with no luck.

It was only when Ian started searching with the drone again, that there was a breakthrough. 

The dramatic rescue in progress
(Ramsey Coastguard)

Helen said: ‘How Ian saw that tiny little black dot on that huge expanse of cliff face is beyond me, but sure enough it was Diesel.

‘Phil and Nigel crawled down over to get a closer look and some bearings.

‘They could only get within about 20 feet and Diesel, clearly in pain, could not make his own way to them.

‘Ian’s perseverance and incredible observation skills saved Diesels life. He would not have lasted another night.’ The Coastguard were called, and Ramsey and Douglas cliff rescue teams mounted a dramatic rescue.

A pulley system was rigged to recover the injured dog.

Helen said: ‘They worked tirelessly. These men and women gave up their Saturday morning leaving their own families behind and their own plans, to save our injured, bewildered dog. Our gratitude to these people is beyond measure.

‘Social media played a huge part in raising help for Diesel. Phil and I went through hell whilst Diesel was missing. We now know that it was nothing compared to what Diesel went through.

‘We will never know exactly what happened but it is very likely that he chased a wild goat. There are many, many of them on the headlands between Cornaa and the Dhoon.’

A drone photo showing the cliff where Diesel the dog was rescued - the green circle denotes the dog's location
A drone photo showing the cliff where Diesel the dog was rescued - the green circle denotes the dog's location (Douglas Coastguard Rescue Team)

Helen said there are many positives that have come from the rescue, including the overwhelming kindness of friends and strangers and volunteers giving their precious time to help.

She added: ‘The only hurtful thing is the need to some people to comment on the irresponsibility of dog owners when they don’t know the full facts.

‘Yes, Diesel could spend his life on a lead but most pet owners endeavor to train their dogs to walk to heel or stay close. Unfortunately, all of that can go straight out of the window when nature takes over. We can only hope that Diesel has learned a valuable lesson.’ As way of saying thank you to the rescue teams, the couple have agreed to make a donation to the RNLI. ‘Although they weren’t used on this occasion, they too are used many times for similar incidents,’ explained Helen. ‘For all of those who have animals and who have their pets safely at home and who weren’t in our position this weekend, stick your hand in your pocket (if you are able) and make a donation to the RNLI in thanks to those kind, brave, men and women who bail out fallible dog owners like us.

‘You never know when it could be you who needs help, no matter how responsible you are.’