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By Dave Boyce
Almanac Staff Writer
Tradition has it that when a dog trees a raccoon, it's a three-step process. In Step 1, the dog chases the raccoon up the tree. Step 2 has the dog standing around at the bottom of the tree looking up at the raccoon and barking. Time passes. In Step 3, the dog realizes the futility of barking and goes away, whereupon the raccoon climbs down and resumes its life.
Guinness, a 40-pound, 8-year-old Wheaton terrier, added a nuance on the evening of June 19 in Atherton: Step 2a, in which the dog climbs the tree, chasing the raccoon to a higher perch.
The problem with this is Step 2b: Getting out of the tree once you realize that you're a dog and that there's a reason that dogs don't climb trees.
Firefighters Bill Gilmore, Felkak House and Tony Eggimann from the Menlo Park Fire Protection District organized a rescue, taking Guinness from a large and laterally oriented branch of an old oak tree after giving him a treat and fitting him into his travel harness, according to Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman.
Guinness was "frozen in place, nervous and shaking" on a branch 30 feet above the ground and 50 feet above the Atherton Drainage Channel when Mr. Eggimann, atop a 36-foot ladder, captured him and carried him safely back to the ground, the chief said.
The dog's owner had also climbed the tree, though not as far as her dog, but firefighters persuaded her not to climb higher -- for her own safety, Chief Schapelhouman said.
The family asked not to be identified, Chief Schapelhouman said.
Did Guinness learn a lesson? Only time will tell.
"In my 32 years in the Fire Service, we have been asked to rescue many cats in trees and while we have rescued dogs from pipes, culverts, under homes and many other locations closer to the ground, I have never seen or heard of a dog that could climb a tree," Chief Schapelhouman said in a statement. "I'm glad this had such a positive ending. Guinness is an amazing animal."
■ Video of dog rescue posted by Menlo Park Fire Protection District. Click on the small "play" button in the lower left side of the video screen.