Staring out into the ocean, numb from shock, Susie Pethick lay deathly still on a steep cliff face. Her eyes darted down to her leg, but the horror of bones protruding through her skin was so frightening that all she could do was look at the view and try not to move.
“My life flashed before my eyes,” recalls Susie. “My children, sports they played, holidays we went on and, of course, my husband Michael.”
Susie, an aged-care worker from Caloote, South Australia, was on an idyllic holiday on the nearby Yorke Peninsula when she told her hubby she’d take a 10-minute walk with her beloved red heeler cross Abby.
While admiring the view, she slipped and fell three metres down a rocky, sandy cliff, stranding her on a remote stretch of coastline. Wracked with pain, and falling in and out of consciousness, the 55-year-old grandmother called out to Michael for help, but he was fishing 500 metres down the coast.
“Luckily, Abby had stayed with me,” tells Susie. “I said to her, ‘Go get Daddy,’ but she just kept nudging me gently, hoping I’d get up. Then I passed out and when I woke up, Abby wasn’t there.”
Little did Susie know that two-year-old Abby, who had been rescued from a shelter just over 12 months ago, had set off on a mercy dash that would spark a three-hour emergency operation ending with Susie being airlifted to an Adelaide hospital.
Running straight back to Michael’s fishing spot, the pup sat on a sand dune, looking agitated. Michael, 59, tells, “I felt really uneasy, so I said, ‘Take me to Mummy,’ and she just started walking away. I’d never have been able to spot Sue so far down the cliff if Abby hadn’t led me to the exact spot.”
Susie is still recovering from two broken bones and an ankle dislocation that have left her with a plate and nine screws in her leg, but Abby has been her constant companion.
“She’s very protective of me. When I got back from the hospital, I would often doze off and she’d nudge me to make sure I was alright. She knows which is my sore leg, so she’ll sit on the other side and be gentle. She’s just so gorgeous and clever. She’s my saviour.”
Michael adds, “Abby coming into our lives has been a blessing, but it’s even greater now. Who knows how Sue’s rescue could have turned out otherwise? She’s cemented her spot in our family forever.”