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Miracle after cliff-side memorial service for dog

BONNEVILLE, Ore. -- A team of volunteers rescued a dog that fell off a 200 foot cliff in the Columbia River Gorge late Sunday.

The dog's owner, Michelle Simmons, says her year-and-a-half-year-old Labradoodle, named Gracie, was part of a large hiking group. Gracie and another dog were playing on a trail when Gracie went over the side of the cliff.

The Oregon Humane Society says Gracie was initially thought to have been killed.

Simmons and her family held a memorial service for the pooch on the cliff.

But, says OHS, a hiker on the trail then told them the dog could be heard at the bottom of the cliff and was alive.

But, the group says, a 10-person OHS volunteer technical rescue team answered a call for help from the Hood River Sheriff's Office, hiking an hour up the steep Eagle Creek trail.

Bruce Wyse, a member of the team, was lowered down the 200-foot cliff and fitted Gracie with a rescue harness. Team members then hoisted Gracie and Wyse back up the cliff, and the team was able to hike out from the trail early Monday.

The dog suffered only scratches and bruises in her fall near Punchbowl Falls.

Simmons says she considers it a miracle that Gracie survived.

Gracie wasn't on a leash and Rene Pizzo, the rescue team's leader, says the incident should be a safety reminder to other pet owners who hike with their animals.

"We strongly urge dog owners to keep their pets on leash all the time in areas such as the Columbia Gorge," Pizzo saysd. "Your dog's leash can save your pet's life."

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