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Evan the collie learns a lesson: Squirrels can fly, dogs can’t

Evan peers up the cliff from his spot on a ledge, waiting to be rescued. - Photo courtesy of Jody Moore
Evan peers up the cliff from his spot on a ledge, waiting to be rescued.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Jody Moore

Evan the collie didn’t look before he leaped, but he lived to leap another day, thanks to local firefighters.

“He saw a squirrel and chased it,” said Gene Bilden, the 4-year-old dog’s owner. “The squirrel went flying over the cliff, and he went flying after it.”

“He’s chased things before,” Bilden added. “He usually stops.”

Evan landed in brush on a four-foot-wide ledge about 10 feet down, Bilden said. If the dog had missed the ledge, he would have fallen another 150 feet, straight down to the beach.

Bilden, of Tacoma, and his dog were visiting Madi Nolan at her two-acre place on the bluff along East Harbor Road near Goss Ridge Road.

Bilden was inside the house at the time of the incident.

When Evan went over the edge in the back yard about 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Bilden perched at the top of the cliff and spoke soothingly, trying to keep the dog calm, while Nolan called the fire department.

“I almost went down there myself,” said Bilden, 72. “But I was afraid I wouldn’t get back up.”

A half-dozen Island County Fire District 3 personnel arrived quickly, said Deputy Chief Jon Beck.

Brian Vick, the department’s rope rescue team coordinator, was outfitted with harness and hardhat and rappelled down the cliff to retrieve Evan, who was waiting more or less calmly in the bushes.

When they got him back on the bluff a few minutes later, Evan trotted away cheerfully.

“He wasn’t hurt any,” Bilden said. “He went running around the yard, barking like crazy, like ‘I’m going to tell you all what happened.’”

“He’ll be out again, off and on,” Bilden added. “Of course, I’m going to keep a close eye on him.”

Nolan praised the fire department personnel who responded.

“I’ve never seen a more professional group of people,” she said. “They didn’t treat it like he was some stupid dog.”

Bilden agreed.

“They did a marvelous job,” he said. “I told them I would be sending them a donation.”

As for the gray squirrel, no one seems to know what happened to it.

“That squirrel shot off the cliff,” said Nolan, who witnessed the whole thing. “It was like he changed species and became a flying squirrel. He may be in another dimension by now.”

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