TOWN OF WESTMORELAND — “Smitty Bear” the Newfoundland dog is safe and sound at home after being missing down a ravine behind his home on Skyline Drive.
Volunteers with the Westmoreland Fire Department climbed down the deep ravine and carried him out Monday morning after his owners, Gloria and Dennis Destefanis were frantic with worry overnight Sunday.
“I can’t even thank these guys enough. They were unbelievable, wonderful,” said Gloria Destefanis this morning about the help her family received. “We’re just thrilled to have him home.”
Destefanis said 12 1/2-year-old Smitty went missing on Sunday, which is rare for such a “laid back” breed of dog.
“He’s very low key. He loves to be with us, that’s how his breed is. We trust him outdoors.”
When they couldn’t find him Sunday afternoon, Destefanis said she and her husband searched their 3-acre property and went up and down the street to neighbors. She said they looked down into the ravine behind their home, but couldn’t find Smitty.
She said she regrets not teaching him to bark on command.
“We’re looking all over, screaming his name. We were all over the neighborhood,” Destefanis stated.
The search continued Monday morning, with the couple driving around the area searching for their dog. Destefanis said she posted about the missing pet on Facebook and “the support was overwhelming” from neighbors and other people.
Eventually, they returned home and Dennis Destefanis went searching through the back yard and the ravine again, calling for the dog.
“I saw a head pop up between two logs. I was shocked to see it was him,” Dennis said this morning. He explained that Smitty had managed to climb underneath two criss-crossed logs in the ravine bed.
“He’s a wonderful creature. Everybody who meets him loves him,” Dennis said.
Smitty suffers from arthritis, and Gloria believes the trip to the bottom of the ravine aggravated the inflammation.
“He couldn’t get back up,” Gloria Destefanis said. The family called 9-1-1 and the Westmoreland volunteers were soon on the scene. Destefanis said her dog cooperated with the rescuers.
“I think he understood that he needed the help.”
Westmoreland Fire Chief Jeff Grube said his volunteers used a Stokes basket to rescue Smitty, the first time they’ve used the device on a dog.
“They climbed down there and put the dog in the basket and pulled it out,” Grube said this morning about the rescue.
Destefanis said the firefighters took Smitty to the family veterinarian at CNY Vet on Route 233 in Westmoreland. “”They gave him a pretty good clean bill of health,” with no additional injuries, Destefanis said. The vets suggested to continue Smitty’s regular arthritis treatment and let him rest — which Destefanis said is what he’s doing today.
“We don’t know if he slipped,” she said. Smitty had never been down the ravine before, and they’ve had the animal on the property since he was a puppy in 2006.
“How in the world did he get down there?”