England polo player Henry Brett is delighted to have his Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bush, back among his ponies on the family farm in Oxfordshire after a dramatic rescue.

The lost dog saga began when four-year-old Bush wandered off while Henry’s parents were picnicking by the coastal cliffs near Combe Martin, Devon. Despite the Bretts plastering the area with photographs of Bush, and repeated unconfirmed sightings by local farmers, the dog was still missing two weeks later. Margie Brett even consulted a dog psychic, who said Bush was “in a dangerous place but still alive — keep looking”.

Finally, climbers spotted Bush stuck on the seaside cliffs, but were unable to bring the dog out after they themselves got in trouble and had to be rescued by an RAF helicopter. Local coastguards were unable to reach Bush by sea, so another Sea King search and rescue chopper was scrambled from RAF Civenor at Barnstable.

The Sea King’s thermal imaging camera confirmed Bush was alive and Sgt Mark Lean was lowered 200ft to get the dog in high winds.

“I’m amazed she was still alive,” said Sgt Lean. “I used a chicken sandwich to coax her out of the crevice where she was stuck.”

Bush was suffering from hypothermia, dehydration and malnutrition, but was nursed back to health in four days at a local vet surgery.

“With the weather worsening, I think Bush would have died that night had the RAF not rescued her,” said Mrs Brett. “Now she’s back with Henry, thanks to help from the wonderful people of North Devon — and especially those brave RAF boys.”

This news report was first published in Horse & Hound (24 May, ’07)