A Mooresville man is happy to be reunited with his beloved hunting dog following a weekend accident at one of Putnam County's many stone quarries.
Albert "Buck" Ashcraft and his friend Tim Racliff, both avid raccoon hunters, were hunting with their dogs in a rural area north of Cloverdale late Saturday night.
Ashcraft told the BannerGraphic that his prized walker coonhound, nicknamed "Slick," was tracking a raccoon near the edge of the quarry when he apparently slipped and fell over the side.
Ashcraft and his friend searched frantically for the dog in the darkness but were unable to find him.
"I heard him barking, but I couldn't find him," Ashcraft said.
Ashcraft said he figured the dog had fallen to the bottom of the canyon, some 50 feet deep, but he was unable to see him in the darkness and didn't know how to get to the bottom of the quarry.
The men called 911 and firefighters from the Cloverdale Township Fire Department responded to the area just west of U.S. 231 about a mile south of U.S. 40.
Fire Chief Kerry Shepherd said firefighters had to use all-terrain vehicles to navigate through thick brush in order to reach the men who were waiting about a half-mile back at the edge of the quarry.
Firefighter Doug Ehman, who is a rock climber on the side, got the call that there had been an accident at one of the county's stone quarries and that he needed to bring his equipment.
When he arrived, Ehman suited up and began the descent down the sheer face of the canyon wall. About 12 feet into the descent, he stumbled on a small ledge with a narrow crevice leading back a few feet.
Inside the crevice was Ashcraft's dog, a bit bewildered by the fall but not injured.
"He was pretty happy to see me," Ehman told the BannerGraphic. "I was a little worried he was going to shove me off the cliff because he was so excited."
Ehman used some extra rope to fashion a makeshift harness for the dog and carefully tied it around his body. Firefighters then helped pull the pair up the canyon and back to safety.
"All the guys started yelling and clapping," Ashcraft said. "They did a super, super job and I just want to thank them."
Looking back on the incident, Ehman said he didn't have to think twice about rescuing the dog.
"It didn't seem like a risk when I was doing it," he said. "It still doesn't."
He said he has been rock-climbing in several states and was happy to be able to use his skills to help save a life.
"I was really happy to rescue him," Ehman said. "I'm a dog owner myself."
The fire chief said he has seen a lot of things during his time as a firefighter, but he had never witnessed a dog being rescued from the side of a stone quarry.
"We've gotten a few cats out of trees and a chimney one time, but we've never had to rescue a dog," Shepherd said.
Unfortunately this isn't the first time Slick has gotten himself into trouble.
Ashcraft said he rescued the dog from the inside of a pipe one time and also dug him out of a hole.
"He's been living on the brink of danger for a while," Ashcraft said with a laugh. "My guess is that his string of luck will end."
He said the dog is ranked in the top eight in his class by the American Kennel Club and has won several awards.
Ashcraft is headed to Alabama in February to compete in a hunt and is glad that Slick will be at his side.
"When you have one of these dogs since they've been a pup, they become part of the family," he said. "If he had fallen all the way down, I don't know if he would have made it."