ROMNEY—If you fell over an almost 200 foot cliff and required a helicopter rescue, you might stop to think if it was worth it. Not Melissa Axel. She took a risk to keep her sons happy—a risk she said she would take again.
Late Wednesday afternoon the family pet, a 10-year-old boxer named Rocky, accidentally slipped over an embankment known as Yellow Banks. Stuck at the bottom of the hill, the pup left only a trail of paw prints and blood.
“I was hollering and hollering for him. But because it was such a steep cliff, I thought he was hurt badly or he was dead. So I inched my way down a little bit and that’s when I could see him a little bit,” she said.
That it was almost dusk didn’t help matters.
When his ear moved slightly at the sound of her voice, Axel went into full rescue mode without regard for her own safety.
“The only thing that came into my mind was my kids, because I knew this would make them so excited. All I could think was that he was down there, really down there. And I started crying because there was a bunch of blood around him,” she said.
“So I began inching my way down by holding onto a tree to see him a little bit better,” she said, despite warnings from her son’s father to stay back until help could arrive.
But in an instant everything changed. “I went to take a step and I slipped. And when I went down the bank, thankfully God was with me,” she said.
Volunteer firemen had to rappel down the cliff to secure the pair before they were airlifted to an area hospital in a medical helicopter that had been sent from Maryland.
Even though Axel is still banged up, bruised and sore, she’s focusing on the kindness shown by the three Romney Volunteer Fire Department firefighters who put their lives on the line during the rope rescue.
Axel escaped with needing only six stitches for a gash in her right hand
“I leaned up against Wes, and then James Hartman secured the dog to a tree as Willie Smith hoisted himself down toward the river. They made it possible to get me into the medivac basket and then I was lifted up into the air about 350 feet,” she said.
Out of every bad situation comes some good, said Axel, who’s now able to joke about how this was her first plane ride and the fact that a dog named Rocky wasn’t every good scaling the rocky bank.
Looking back, Axel also credits motherly love and guardian angels—a deceased uncle and cousin who were devoted to public service—for getting her through this ordeal.
“The only thing that was in my head was my son’s birthday, and knowing the big smiles I would see on their faces when they got their dog back after I rescued him and brought him home,” she said.
Later, she realized just how lucky she’d been.
“The fire department guys said that when they get calls like mine it is very rare that when they get down there that the person is breathing, so I am definitely blessed to be alive and only have the injuries I do. It’s kind of funny, but the dog is in better condition than I am,” Axel said.
The reunion was everything she’d imagined, complete with plenty of smiles, hugs and kisses for Rocky from her sons Noah and Brayden.
“Brayden was trying to ride Rocky like a horse, just like he always does,” she said with a chuckle. Rocky got into the act with lots of tail wagging, and “licking us in the face because that’s the way he usually gives us kisses,” Axel said.