After spending months alone at the bottom of a 12-foot pit, a 13-year-old dog named Abby is finally home with her family.
An unsuspecting group of recreational cavers discovered the missing senior pup deep within Missouri’s Moore Cave System while on a project weekend with the Cave Research Foundation.
“She was just balled up on the floor,” Rick Haley, one of Abby’s rescuers, told The Dodo. “All she could do was lift her head.”
When they first discovered her, the lead caver of the group, Frank Keene, snapped a picture of Abby, then exited the cave and began recruiting help for the entirely vertical rescue.
First, he contacted Assistant Fire Chief Rob Calhoun, who went door to door asking neighbors if they recognized the dog in the picture.
“One of them said, ‘Yeah, I think that’s the neighbor’s dog right over there,’” Haley said. “That’s how they got ahold of [her owner].”
Keene recruited Haley to help assist with the rescue — a dangerous mission for both rescuers and the pup. Abby had been in the cave for a long time, and the only way to get her out was to lift her up through the narrow opening she initially fell through.
“I have rescued dogs out of caves before, but those dogs weren’t there for long and could be walked out,” Haley said.
For this mission, Haley had to come up with a way to lift Abby off the ground without causing her too much stress. On a whim, he grabbed an empty duffle bag and lined it with a fluffy blanket.
Haley placed the duffle bag on the cold rock floor next to Abby with the top unzipped. The nervous dog surprised both of her rescuers by slowly climbing into the duffle bag all by herself and almost falling asleep.
“It was warm, dry and soft,” Haley said. “She was very comfortable.”
Haley and Keene zipped the duffle bag up with Abby’s head sticking out, then slowly started the process of guiding Abby vertically out of the cave.
The climb out of the cave was difficult. The rescuers only had a hand line, which they secured at the top and dropped vertically through the passageway, to pull themselves and Abby upwards.
They took turns climbing ahead of one another, hand-over-hand, as they placed the duffle bag on the nearest ledge, then reached down to lift Abby up. After 90 minutes of climbing, they finally got to the top of the pit with the duffle bag.
Assistant Fire Chief Calhoun reached in and grabbed the duffle bag from the rescuers and held Abby in his arms as he carried her into daylight.
The pup’s pupils were still very dilated from the months she spent in complete darkness and she was extremely skinny, but Haley found no other injuries when he did a quick medical assessment of Abby post-rescue.
Abby’s dad showed up to the scene of the rescue shortly after and was shocked to see his dog after two long months without her. He took her home and immediately began nursing her back to health.
Haley ran into Abby and her owner again exactly one week after the heroic rescue. She was still very thin and weak, but he noticed one big change in the pup.
“She barked at me when I drove up,” Haley said. “For a while, she wasn’t even barking, but I think she’s getting back to herself now.”