Cavers in Missouri recently rescued a dog stranded hundreds of feet underground almost two months after the animal disappeared from her family’s home.
A small group of cavers discovered Abby, a 13-year-old pet, while exploring the passages of the 18-mile Berome Moore cave system in Perry county on 6 August. They alerted the local fire department and members of the Cave Research Foundation at the surface of their discovery about 500ft below.
Several of the more experienced cavers went down to take a look.
The lethargic animal “was not in good shape”, according to caver Rick Haley, a teacher and recreational spelunker, in a Facebook post. But he said she was moving her head, and shuffled into a duffel bag he spread on the ground.
“I laid that bag out, unzipped it, put the blanket in and the dog at that point walked right over and sat in the bag, because the dog recognized ‘this is the driest, warmest and softest thing I’ve seen in a long time and I’m just going to lay on it’,” Haley told CNN in a story published online Saturday.
“She didn’t seem to have any injuries. But boy, she was really malnourished. She was skin and bones.”
An intricate hour-long rescue followed, with Abby lifted slowly to the surface in the duffel bag and Perry and another caver, Gerry Keene, taking turns to climb above each other and hand the bag up.
While the operation was happening, another caver was knocking on doors with a photograph of the dog. Abby was reunited with the Bonner family, which believed their pet was probably gone forever when she disappeared in early June.
“Abby is getting back to her old self. That’s pretty normal. I mean she really hasn’t barked yet – I guess she just doesn’t have the energy for it,” said Rachel Bonner, daughter of Jeff and Kathy Bonner.
Haley told CNN he believed Abby might have fallen into an opening while chasing another animal and sunk deeper into Missouri’s second largest cave system in floods caused by recent heavy rains.
He said it was “a good feeling” to participate in the rescue but said any of his fellow cavers would have done the same.
“I happened to be one of the only people on the surface at the time the rescue needed to happen,” he said. “If there had been all 30 of those cavers there, you would have found 30 people facilitating this rescue.”
• This article was amended on 15 August 2022. An earlier version referred incorrectly to “cave divers”, who explore cave systems under water, rather than cavers.