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Cassie Simonson was heartbroken.

Thea — her beloved Great Dane — was missing.

Simonson searched for Thea for days, figuring she’d never see her dog again.

But Simonson and Thea have been reunited — thanks to Fremont firefighters and an observant lawn service worker.

On Friday, firefighters made a high-angle rescue, retrieving the 110-pound dog who found herself about halfway down a 200-foot bluff in the Riverview subdivision, south of Fremont.

The firemen helped the dog and the worker get down to the Platte River bank and a landing where both were picked up by an airboat and taken to safety.

It was a good ending to what had been a heart-wrenching search.

Before she went missing, Thea was staying at the home of Cassie’s dad, Mark, who also has a Rottweiler mix named, Rosie.

A bit of a Houdini, Rosie is a smart dog who apparently knows how to open gates.

Rosie and Thea went on the lam on Nov. 6 after they got out of Mark Simonson’s fenced-in backyard at Riverview.

Rosie returned, but Thea did not.

“We spent three hours canvasing the neighborhood and looking for her,” Mark Simonson said.

Cassie and other family members made posts on Facebook. Mark Simonson said they called the Dodge and Saunders sheriffs’ offices and rescue agencies in Fremont and Wahoo. They posted signs in the neighborhood.

“I honestly thought someone had stolen her,” Cassie said. “I wasn’t sleeping. I was so worried.”

Simonson’s house is on a part of the bluff that isn’t so steep and he thinks Thea may have slid partway down the muddy incline, then wandered along that area until she could go no further.

By then, she’d reached an area far below the top of the bluff. Yet she was too high to get down the slippery area to the river bank.

Four days after Thea disappeared — Brian Grover of Indra Mowing and Tree Care — and his boss, Jason Indra, were at Riverview bidding a job.

Indra said they looked over the cliff to see where they might throw the branches.

That’s when Grover spotted the large black and white dog — and realized it was a Great Dane.

“That dog is stuck,” he said.

Grover knew how much his daughter, Hannah Monaghan, had loved her Great Dane, named Lugnut, and he set out to help the stranded dog.

The evening quickly grew dark.

“I walked the tree line until I could find a spot to get down,” he said. “It took a couple attempts to find one — where there wasn’t such a drop off. When I did, I kind of slid to the bottom.”

Grover said he then crawled up the steep, muddy incline, hanging onto weeds and roots.

“I walked the ledge until where I could see flashlights shining down,” he said.

It took him about a half hour to reach Thea.

“I just sat there and held her and waited,” he said. “She was really skinny. You could tell she’d been there awhile. She was shaking.”

Yet Thea seemed better after Grover arrived.

“She put her elbows on my lap and her head on my arm and she closed her eyes and laid there and went to sleep,” Grover said. “I think she was just happy, knowing someone was there.”

Grover knew getting the large dog further down the muddy bluff in the dark would be no easy feat.

But Grover, a dog lover, was determined to stay with Thea.

In the meantime, Indra called Cassie Simonson — who used to work for him — and told her Thea had been found. He also called his friend, Paul Boyd, who came to the area with Shane Meyer and Meyer’s airboat.

Cassie talked about trying to go down the cliff herself, but a friend’s mom, Rhonda Heimann, called area firefighters for help.

When she learned they didn’t have the means to retrieve the dog, Heimann called the Fremont Fire Department.

“They said, ‘We’re not going to leave someone’s pet stranded on the side of the cliff, even though that’s out of our jurisdiction,’” Heimann said.

Capt. Jamie Meyer said Fremont firefighters got the call at about 6:20 p.m. Friday.

Firefighters went to the scene, where they’d help Thea and Grover.

The firemen set up their high angle rescue equipment on the bluff, using a large tree in a homeowner’s yard as an anchor.

Firefighters Terry Luthy, who’d previously attended a two-week, high angle technical class in Baton Rouge, La., oversaw the procedure and with Alex Iniguez, Levi Alley and Jason Meyer worked the rope system.

Captain Meyer and Lt. Doug Backens worked to command the operation.

The men then lowered firefighter-paramedic Zach Klein over the side of the bluff. A body harness was sent down for Grover.

“Zach made a body harness out of webbing around the dog and we tied the dog into the rescue line we’d sent down with him (Klein) and we tied (Grover) into the line,” Meyer said.

Firefighters used the ropes to help lower the two men and the dog as they made their way down the rest of the slick, steep bluff to the river bank.

The men and the dog were transported by the airboat to a landing to get them out safely.

“It took probably about 90 minutes,” Captain Meyer said.

Mark Simonson said he was returning home when he got word that firefighters were at the scene. He’d learn about the airboat, too.

“It was kind of a major rescue effort,” Simonson said. “These guys were unbelievable, just the way the communicated and helped their people rappel down the cliff.

“Jamie and his crew were so exceptionally well trained, so professional and so efficient. It was amazing to watch them in action,” Simonson added.

Cassie was ecstatic to see Thea.

“I was so happy,” she said.

Thea is thin, but healthy, Mark Simonson noted. Cassie said Thea is eating well — and the fence is being fixed so Rosie can’t open it.

Thea appears to have been rescued in the nick of time. She hadn’t eaten for about three days and couldn’t get down to the river to get a drink of water, Simonson said.

“She was probably very dehydrated and exhausted,” Simonson added. “Honestly, if Brian hadn’t seen her I don’t think she would have lasted another 24 hours.”


News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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