Rick Haley, a teacher and amateur cave diver, had no idea he would end up performing a rescue operation, much less reuniting a missing dog, Abby, with her owner, when he set out to help survey a cave on August 6.
He was working on a routine project for the Cave Research Foundation that involved mapping a cave north of Perryville, Missouri, with a group of about 30 spelunkers.
The cave is a component of the Berome Moore cave system, which is around 22 miles long and the second-largest cave system in Missouri.
Haley recalled the surprising rescue on Facebook, saying that he and another spelunker collaborated to get the animal back to the surface safely.
“The dog was not in good shape,” Haley said of what they initially discovered.
Abby was skinny, curled up on the mud floor, and covered in dirt. She was so weak that she was unable to even whimper or wag her tail.
“She didn’t seem to have any injuries,” Haley said. “But boy, she was really malnourished. She was skin and bones. She had mud on her.”
The lost dog was “lethargic” and reluctant to walk.
In order to save the pup and not risk the rescue operation, Abby was placed in a duffel bag with her head sticking out.
“We moved her 500 feet to a very tight, awkward, vertical climb, handing her hand to hand upward to the surface,” Haley said. “She was totally cooperative.”
When they finally arrived at the light, Haley remarked, “She was happy to be out!”
The rescue mission took over an hour to complete.
After the rescue, the spelunkers got in touch with Biehle Assistant Fire Chief Robert Cahoon, who assisted them in going door to door in the neighborhood to track down Abby’s owner.
According to the dog’s owner, 13-year-old Abby went missing on June 9 and could have spent nearly two months trapped deep inside the cave.
It’s still unclear how the dog ended up there in the first place.
Haley suggested that she might have been pursuing a mouse or raccoon. He also speculated that she might have traveled further into the cave system due to recent flooding caused by strong rains.
Normally, dogs can only last a few days without food and water, but fortunately, there is “ample water” in the cave, according to Haley.
However, Abby was discovered in utter darkness, which would have made it difficult for her to find any type of food or drink even though the cave contains running water and the presence of fish and crustaceans, adding to the mystery of how she survived.
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