AN elderly sheep dog has been rescued after surviving for 12 days in sub-zero temperatures trapped at the bottom of a Highland gorge.
Nell, aged 12, stayed alive without food and in temperatures as low as minus six degrees C.
The hungry and frightened pooch slipped into the Monessie Gorge, near Roy Bridge, after going missing from a local croft.
The dog’s owner had no idea what had happened to Nell but, in an incredible stroke of luck, an eagle-eyed walker spotted her in the ravine.
The terrified dog had been unable to climb out of the gorge and had done its best to survive by taking shelter in a rocky lair.
Lochaber Mountain Rescue were scrambled on Thursday night – amid temperatures dropping to minus three degrees C.
The volunteers abseiled into the gorge, crossed the fast-flowing River Spean and then had to coaxed Nell out from her hiding spot using biscuits.
She was then strapped into a harness and lifted to the top.
Although “a wee bit smelly” and “sorry for herself”, Nell was in good health according to the team, despite being exposed to the freezing elements and recent bad weather.
Posting on social media, the group wrote: “A good news story after a difficult week all round.
“The Team were out tonight rescuing a wee dog which was stuck in the Monessie Gorge near Roy Bridge.
“Twelve year old sheep dog Nell, who belongs to a local crofter, had been missing for 12 days.
“She was spotted tonight by a member of public near the foot of the gorge. To get to the dog the team had to abseil down into the gorge over the River Spean.
“She was a bit timid but after a wee bit smooth talking and a dog biscuit she was coaxed out of her lair by Callum and put in harness and brought up the crag.
“Apart for being a wee bit smelly, sorry for herself and hungry, she does not seem to be any worse for her experience.”
Nell’s owner, Donald MacRae, told today of his joy and amazement at getting his dog back alive and well.
The 64-year-old from Monessie Farm, Roy Bridge, said: “I was delighted to get the call from the mountain rescue.
“She’d been gone nearly two weeks. I thought she might have been killed by falling in the gorge.”
Donald said he got Nell two and a half years ago from his daughter in Sutherland.
He recalled: “We were out and she just disappeared but she’s never runs off. She’s the kind of dog that doesn’t go far.”
Suspecting she had fallen into the gorge, Donald searched the area but without luck.
“She’s failing quite a bit and I think she just couldn’t get back out,” he said. “We searched around the gorge but she didn’t bark or anything.”
Donald has a theory about how Nell survived her ordeal.
“Quite a few sheep have fallen down there and been killed, and I think that’s how she survived – eating a dead sheep.
“I think she might have made her it half way down the gorge before she slipped.”
The rescue team warned walkers and visitors to take care in the region after the arrival of snow this week.
They added: “Things are getting much busier now that winter has really arrived with us being out three day in a row now.
“With Easter just round the corner, make sure you all stay safe and enjoy our mountains which look stunning at the moment. Lots of deep snow.”