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A Tale of Luck for Two

A dog is saved after a fall from a Pacific Palisades cliff, and his owner is rescued by firefighters.

May 18, 2006|J. Michael Kennedy | Times Staff Writer

The saga of Pepe, the dog who plummeted off a Pacific Palisades cliff and onto the highway below, had all the makings of a tragic tale. Not to mention what happened to his owner.

But with a bit of luck and timing, the Jack Russell terrier was home Wednesday, none the worse for wear. Ditto his owner.

But that conclusion came after hundreds went searching for the dog and news of the hunt filled the airwaves. And after the owner got stuck on the cliff.

"It was a recipe for disaster," said Pepe's owner, Brandon McMillan, an animal trainer. "A few things that went wrong led to the worst possible situation."

And a few things that went right led to the dog's recovery.

The story begins Tuesday with McMillan at a Pacific Palisades lookout, where he was about to load up his three dogs.

Enter a squirrel and exit Pepe, who plunged into the bushes at cliff's edge while giving chase. By the time McMillan got there, the dog was nowhere to be found.

After calling him for 15 minutes, McMillan began to worry.

"He's well trained and comes back every single time," he said. "I thought he might have been stuck somewhere."

What McMillan didn't see was Jenny-Lyn Marais, who stopped her Range Rover on Pacific Coast Highway after Pepe narrowly avoided being hit by a big rig.

"It was obviously a dog in a desperate situation," said Marais, who works in the business and marketing department of a Santa Monica dental lab. "I leaned across and opened the door and whistled for him to come. He was so gentle and so grateful. He jumped right over on my lap and started licking me."

High above, McMillan decided that Pepe must be stuck out of sight somewhere on the cliff. So he drove down the hill and began climbing back up, peering into holes as he went.

Then, only 15 feet from the top of the cliff, the ground began to give way and McMillan found himself stuck, held in place only by the roots of a scrubby bush.

After firefighters came to the rescue, a man who had been on the beach below volunteered that a green sport utility vehicle had stopped and picked up a dog. McMillan began his search, asking friends to make phone calls and distribute fliers throughout Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica.

Meanwhile, Marais dropped off the dog at the Blue Cross Pet Hospital in Pacific Palisades, across the street from her daughter's school. She didn't take Pepe home because she's allergic to dogs.

Enter Alison Klossner, an animal rescue volunteer who printed a flier about Pepe from a website and began distributing it Wednesday morning. One of the first places she went was the Blue Cross Pet Hospital, where employees saw the picture and said they had the dog.

"I do stuff like this all the time," said Klossner, a physical therapist. "But this is the first time I've actually found one."

Neither Marais nor Klossner had any idea that the search for the dog had made TV news the night before. Neither had turned on the tube.

A few telephone calls later, a happy McMillan was reunited with his dog.

"If this dog has nine lives, he used two yesterday," McMillan said. "One was falling off the cliff and the other was landing on Pacific Coast Highway and living to tell the tale. He did both."

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