It was just an ordinary cave exploration for Gerry Keene, when he found something he had never seen before almost 500 feet under the ground... a dog! The sweet pup was extremely skinny and weak with matted fur curled up on a cold rock. “We realized it would be hard to get her out because she was too weak to walk,” Keene detailed. He took a picture of the dog and exited to call a emergency response team.
Rick Haley, an assistant fire chief and caving enthusiast was nearby when he heard about the conundrum. He volunteered to enter the cave and try to rescue the pup. “There’s no telling how long she’d been down there, but we knew we had to get her out,” said Haley. Rick and Gerry would have to carry the dog up a vertical climb in order to save her. “If we didn’t get her out, she would die in there,” Rick continued.
Prior to the duo re-entering the cave, the picture was shown to residents near the cave and the dog was recognized as Abby, a mixed-breed poodle, who went missing June 9th of this year.
It took about 15 minutes of crawling and climbing to reach Abby, but over an hour to pull her from the abyss. The two carried her in a padded duffle bag, while she stuck her head out during the ordeal.
“We had to move her hand over hand because it was pretty tight and vertical coming out,” Haley said. “It was tiring because it was the fourth trip through the cave that day,” Keene described, “But we just took it slow and easy.”
The cave system Abby was stuck in is over 22 miles long, and is one of the largest in Missouri. “She was extremely weak and emaciated from lack of food,” he said. “She did have water in the cave. If not for that, she wouldn’t be here.”
The two eventually returned to the surface and reunited Abby with her very grateful owner, Jeff Bohnert. “I was absolutely astonished that she was still alive,” he said, noting that the cave is about two miles from his house. “She’s a real survivor. It took a while for her eyesight to adjust after being in the darkness for so long. But she’s coming around.”
Abby was bathed and given small amounts of chicken broth. “It had been a long time since she’d had food, so we gave the broth to her in tiny increments to get her stomach moving again,” Bohnert said. “She’s still pretty weak, but she’s responding to the nutrients.”
When Abby went missing, she was playing outside with the family's other dog Summer. The pair stayed close to each other when outside, so Jeff and his wife knew something was wrong when only one dog returned home. Jeff went searching for her, but came up empty. Abby has been with the family for 14 years, and they were devasted. Luckily, for the Bohnert family, a group of determined cavers saved the day and brought Abby back home!
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