A runner saw a dog stuck near a 1,000-foot cliff. He carried her down.

March 11, 2024

Sergio Florian was out for an evening run up a mountain on Oahu’s east side when something caught his eye: a white and gray dog curled up near the edge of a 1,000-foot cliff. The dog was in distress, reports The Washington Post.

“I was shocked to see her because I’ve never seen a dog up that high,” said Florian, 44, who trains for marathons on steep trails behind his home in Kaaawa, Hawaii, once or twice a week.

The dog was dehydrated, and her face and neck were covered with scratches, he said. Florian immediately realized she was too weak to make it down the steep Pu’u Manamana trail without help.

“She was in the most treacherous part of the trail, stuck between two cliffs, and it was almost sunset,” he said, adding that there were drop-offs in all directions.

He called out to the dog and slowly approached her.

He knew that he would have to carry her the half mile down the most vertical portion of the four-mile trail. Florian gently scooped up the canine—he estimated the dog weighed about 45 pounds—and began working his way down the rocky trail as strong winds swirled around them.

“She was quivering and scared, and I could feel her warm little underbelly on my skin as I hooked my arm around her,” Florian said, recalling the day, February 28. “She seemed really tame and loving, but she was really weak, like she’d been up there for a while.”

Florian didn’t know at the time that the dog’s name was Stevie and she’d been missing for three days since taking off to chase a wild pig. The feral pig population has skyrocketed on Oahu in recent years.

Hours before Florian’s hike, another hiker had come across the dog but couldn’t get her down by himself, and he posted about it on the Oahu Hiking Community private Facebook page.

“People had already heard about the dog and were trying to find the owner, but I had no idea any of this was going on,” Florian said. “All I knew was this poor girl needed help and it was up to me to get her down.”

“Leaving her wasn’t an option,” he said.

It took him about an hour to carefully work his way down the mountain while balancing the dog in his arms so he wouldn’t fall, he said, noting that there are sheer cliffs on parts of both sides of the trail.

“The lower part of the trail is more popular—lots of people go there to take photos of the spectacular view,” Florian said. “Not many people go higher up because it’s quite dangerous. If you fall, you’re pretty much done.”

“I have fear and respect for the place, but I feel comfortable with it because I’ve been training here for so long,” he added. “I know where I’m putting my feet as I go up and down.”

Florian said he works as a physical therapist and helps people with spinal injuries to learn to walk again.

Above, Florian gently scooped up the tired and weak canine — he estimated the dog weighed about 45 pounds — and began working his way down the rocky trail . (Photo source: Sergio Florian)

“My arms are really strong because I’m lifting people all day,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of people who could have carried that dog, but I knew that I could.”

He said he stopped several times on the way down to rest with the pup and reassure her that she’d soon be safe.

“I just kept telling her, ‘It’s okay, girl, you’re doing great,’” Florian said. One of the videos he took during the ordeal shows him petting the dog, saying, “I don’t know whose girl this is, but we’ve got to find out.”

On the steepest part of the descent, he held on to the cliff with one hand and held the dog close to him with the other hand as he scooted down on his behind, he said.

“I really had to balance myself and hold her on top of me,” he said. “I tried not to move too fast so she wouldn’t get freaked out.”

It was around 6 p.m. when he reached the bottom of the trail and took the dog to his house. His wife, Dayane Florian, had seen posts about Stevie on social media, and she helped to track down the owner, he said. Island News reported on the rescue.

“While we waited for [the owner] to come over, we gave Stevie lots of water and some food,” Sergio Florian said. “She’s such a nice dog—hated to see her leave.”

The owner did not respond to a request from The Washington Post for an interview, but Florian said he thanked him for getting his dog back.

“I felt I developed a little bond with Stevie out there on the trail, and I’d love to see her again,” he said.

That night after the rescue, Florian posted on Instagram that his arms were aching from carrying Stevie, but his heart was full. More than 24,000 people have liked the post.

“I couldn’t leave another living creature in distress like that,” he wrote. “Love happy endings.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost