Rottweiler Survives 50 Foot Fall Off a Cliff

Family had already lost too much there
By Karen B. London PhD, October 2018, Updated June 2021
Hannah Dog

When their 10-month old Rottweiler fell 50 feet off a cliff on the Mogollon Rim near Payson, Ariz., the Zabeks were terrified that she would not survive. They had plenty of reasons to fear the worst, as they had already lost one family member to a fall at that spot.

Stephen Zabek was 16 years when he died falling off a cliff in 2003, and his younger brother Zach was 13 years old when it happened. Every year, the family visits the area to remember their son and brother, and this year, they brought Zach’s 10-month old dog Hannah with them. Hannah jumped out of the car the moment the door was opened, ran to the edge and fell off. For the family, this brought back all of the feelings from the time of Stephen’s death.

They called 9-1-1 but were told that it was too dangerous to send anyone down 50 feet to attempt to rescue their dog. Zach Zabek is a new recruit with a fire department in Phoenix, and through some of his connections, the family contacted a retired firefighter named Mark Delima who now owns American Rescue Concepts (ARC). ARC specializes in training rescuers in confined space and rope rescues. Delima had never done a rope rescue with a dog before, but the techniques used for people work for dogs, too. They used a pulley system to lower a firefighter down to the dog with a canine harness, and then both were pulled to safety.

It took hours to set up the system used to rescue the dog, so Hannah spent about 24 hours alone on the ledge, some of it in dark and cold conditions. Miraculously, Hannah was not hurt despite the fall, the time alone and the rescue. Thankfully, this family was spared a second tragedy.

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life