Fear turned to an outpouring of joy for a Mosgiel woman after the dramatic rescue of her dog from the face of a cliff yesterday.
Lynda Read was walking Benji, a 5-year-old Maltese, around Andersons Bay Cemetery yesterday.
She let the dog off the lead for a run around as usual while strolling through the Chisholm Links golf course, but at 12.50pm, realised he had not come back.
"He always runs - you're allowed them off the lead here. He'll usually come flying back."
At that point, she enlisted the help of a nearby golfer.
They eventually heard a sound from the dog down the cliff face at Lawyers Head.
Mrs Read called her husband, Kelvin, and they called emergency services at 2.20pm.
Crews from St Kilda and Lookout Point arrived, supported by specialist personnel from other stations, and crew members set up a line rescue down the cliff.
After a nervous hour since the call, firefighters emerged at the top of the cliff with a shaken but unharmed dog.
Mrs Read was overjoyed as she knelt down and patted the rescued pet.
"I'm very relieved."
She was "hugely grateful" to the firefighters, she said.
Firefighters believed the dog fell while chasing a rabbit.
He always ran after them on a friend's farm, but was never able to catch them, she said.
St Kilda Firefighter Grant Swanson said he would always remember the rescue.
"It's something we don't do all the time, but we were trained for it."
As he abseiled down, he saw the dog's head at a rabbit hole 20m down at a ledge before a "large drop".
"An extra step and he would have been going all the way."
As a "dog person", he was able to talk to and pat the dog and attach a lead.
"He was shaking like anything and a bit dirty.
"He's a tough wee fella."