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Mountain Dog's Story

by: ellen spitaleri, Velvet stands up to the challenge of giving owner Matt Bryant a little love. The dog, Bryant and two female companions were rescued in February after falling off a ledge into Mt. Hood’s White River Canyon.

The facts are stark: On Feb. 18, Matt Bryant, Kate Hanlon, Christina Redl and Bryant's dog, Velvet, became separated from their five companions, and fell more than 400 feet into Mt. Hood's White River Canyon.

They spent a harrowing night on the slopes of the mountain, and were rescued on Feb. 19, at 10:47 a.m.

Bryant, who works for the North Clackamas School District, said he and his friends had never expected 'the nation's spotlight to be on us,' but a veritable media frenzy occurred after the rescue.

So three days after the events on Mt. Hood, Bryant and his fellow climbers and their 'significant others' all met for a de-briefing, told their stories and asked questions.

They concluded, said Bryant, that the media attention gave them 'a golden opportunity to do something positive.'

And that is when the group came up with the idea of a fundraiser to benefit the search and rescue organizations that assisted in the Mt. Hood rescue.

That event will be held tomorrow, March 29, at 6 p.m. at the Lucky Lab Brew Pub, located at 1945 NW Quimby Street in Portland.

Bryant noted that 100 percent of all donations and proceeds from the silent auction will go to the organizations that helped during the rescue.

'The Lucky Lab [people] have been incredibly supportive - they are amazing,' he said, adding that they have created a special brew named Velvet Oatmeal Porter, in honor of his dog.

'All the rescuers are coming to the fundraiser and they are very excited,' Bryant said.

Meeting with rescuers an eye-opening experience

He added that two weeks ago the climbers had a chance to meet with the rescuers for another de-briefing, and said, 'We all re-told our accounts, asked questions and discussed the lessons learned.'

Two things surprised Bryant, as a result of the de-briefing: one is that the rescuers told him that this was 'the first time it [a de-briefing of this type] had ever happened,' and the second was that they told him 'it is not uncommon for them to rescue someone, only to have them walk away - and they never hear from them again.'

Bryant added, 'We were shocked.'

The climbing group determined to use their media appearances to benefit the rescue organizations, and they appeared on 'The Morning Show,' 'The Early Show' and 'The Today Show,' but it was their visit with Ellen Degeneres on her show that netted them $30,000.

'As a result of us being on her show, Bayer Animal Health donated $20,000 to Portland Mountain Rescue and $10,000 to Dove Lewis Animal Hospital,' Bryant said.

(For information on why money was donated to Dove Lewis, see Velvet sidebar.)

'We had no idea this was going to happen, and we knew we had made the right decision to go on the show - it bolstered our efforts to raise money for the mountain rescue teams,' he said.

The group then found out that Portland Mountain Rescue 'took the money and shared it with the other mountain rescue units. It just reinforced for us how incredibly community minded these guys are,' Bryant added.

He said there were '50 to 60 rescue volunteers from all over the state,' who assisted in the Mt. Hood rescue.

'These guys are all truly amazing - they are all volunteers and their organizations are all non profits. They are teachers, businessmen and firemen who go about their everyday business, and when they get a call, they leave work and their families, because they enjoy doing it.

'When they got to us they gave us dry clothes - their own clothes. They were incredibly professional and well trained - they love doing what they do.'

He added, 'They are true heroes, and that is why we're honoring them.'