A SCOTS dog owner has told of how the world’s eyes fell on her beloved pooch as it became stranded on a freezing 200-foot mountain ledge for over 48 hours.

Fiona Young’s husband Ian was out walking their dog Ben in the Cairngorms, in the eastern Highlands, on Monday morning when the pet ran ahead of his owner.

Having completely disappeared from sight, 43-year-old Ian spent hours searching for the dog until bad weather and a lack of daylight forced him to return home without cavachon Ben.

Wife Fiona launched a Facebook appeal for help in finding the cherished mutt which was shared thousands of times online - with people across the globe waiting for news with bated breath.

Evening Times:
Ian and Ben

Reliving the astounding tale with the Evening Times, Fiona said: “My husband Ian was out skiing over the back of the Cairngorms on Monday and took Ben with him as we often do.

“Ben ran off ahead. He was about 10 metres in front and then my husband lost sight of him. He followed Ben’s tracks as far as he could see. He shouted on him but got no response, although he could hear him barking. Then he heard nothing.

“He searched for Ben, but there was no sign. He asked others on the mountain to keep an eye out. He hoped Ben had been picked up by someone. The weather was starting to change. It was 4pm by this point and the light was being lost. Ian had to come off while it was still safe to do so.

Fiona, 39, put a post on Facebook saying the dog was missing, and Ian put the appeal in Facebook climbing group British Backcountry where it gained traction - quickly.

Evening Times:
Ben was on 'Y Gully'

Fiona, an advanced nurse practitioner, said: “I couldn’t keep up with the reaction. The likes and shares from people who didn’t even know us was just phenomenal. People from Canada, America and Australia were watching and people from the Alps were following the story. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Through all the positivity came comments Fiona said were “nasty.”

“We were called irresponsible owners for going up on the hill and people were asking what we were doing in that weather. But it wasn’t bad to start with,” Fiona explained.

“People were saying Ben should have been on a lead, and saying we were asking people to risk their lives for a dog. It was nasty and hurtful. Someone even said we should have been charged with neglect.”

The good comments far outweighed the bad, she said, adding: “Strangers were trying to protect us and stick up for us. We didn’t put anyone and risk and didn’t want to.”

The couple had no response from their online appeal overnight and were faced with an agonising wait until the next morning. Even then, the weather was bad and there was no knowing when it would let up.

Evening Times:
The mountain ledge where Ben was stuck, circled

Fiona said: “We felt awful. We didn’t know if Ben had fallen. The weather was horrific. We didn’t know if he would survive it. We didn’t know what we’d be faced with. I was devastated, as was my six-year-old daughter. She couldn’t understand where Ben was.”

In the morning, retail manager Ian went back up the mountain to see if he could retrace where Ben was last seen.

Fiona said: “The Cairngorms mountain team gave Ian a lift to the top of the mountain which was incredible, otherwise it would have taken Ian hours to get up the side of the mountain. He went past the gully and came out on the loch where he finally spotted Ben on the ledge.”

A devastated Ian felt helpless when he realised he couldn’t reach his dog. “He wasn’t able to ski down the gully as it wasn’t safe to do so,” explained Fiona. “He would have ended up skiing past the gully and ended up injured himself on the rocks.

“He shouted on Ben and called out to him to see if he would jump down, but Ben just sat and wouldn’t move. Ian was getting more and more upset. The wind started picking up up to around 80mph. Ian stayed out longer than he should have. It was getting dark. Unfortunately, he had to leave Ben sitting there.”

Evening Times:
Ben after he was rescued

The fatal avalanche had taken place on Ben Nevis that day, claiming three lives and injuring one, so local teams were busy. Ian had been forced to get off the hill, fearing he, too, would end up needing rescued.

“Ian was devastated,” said Fiona. “He would have had to climb down to Ben, but he’s not an experienced climber. If he did that, he was putting himself at risk and potentially others.

Two days on, on Wednesday, Inverness couple Fiona and Ian knew climbers were heading out along with others from Scottish Hill Walking & Wild Camping. Another group from Glencoe was coming over and the weather was stable enough at 7am.

Fiona and Ian were advised to stay back, and the climbers knew where Ben was from Ian’s descriptions.

Then, the moment came the world had been waiting for. “I got a message and there was a picture of Ben in a helicopter looking really muddy,” said Fiona. “I thought, ‘That’s not my dog!’. There was also a video saying, ‘This is Ben. We’ve got him’.

“I was in tears and then laughing . I was so overjoyed. I showed everyone and called Ian. It was a huge relief and disbelief they got him.”

Evening Times:
Ben at home with Fiona and her daughter

Ben was in an “amazing” condition, said Fiona, who added: “The vet couldn’t believe it. There was a tumble when the Coastguard was flying above him. They thought Ben would have had broken bones. Apart from being muddy and tired, he had no injuries. He was warm and dry, thanks to the jacket he was wearing. It saved his life”

At first, Ben had been “tired and clingy” - but has since been out chasing birds again in the family garden.

Fiona said: “I just want to say a huge thanks to the climbers who volunteered and were out there, the Coastguard, all the Facebook groups, especially Scottish Hillwalking and Strathspey Veterinary Centre. Thanks to all the online support and love. I can’t even express my gratitude to everybody.

“Ben will be back up on the hills. I need time to recover! We hope it won’t stop him walking with us again.”

The family has since launched a crowdfunding page to thank all of those who were involved in Ben’s rescue. Read more and donate here.