When a three-year old border collie and australian shepherd mix disappeared from an excavation business on Pulpit Rock Road in Jamestown five weeks ago, her owner never lost hope that they would be reunited.
“I knew she was around somewhere. I just didn't know where. I thought someone had picked her up. I wasn't giving up on her,” said Columbia resident Jason Brisco, 48, of his constant companion and riding partner, June Bug. “You just keep looking, like a kid, you know?”
Throughout the five-week search, Brisco posted fliers throughout the town and mounted daily searches throughout the gravel roads, thickets and meadows near Pulpit Rock Road for the young, black-furred collie. Those efforts were all in vain, he said, until he was notified by Tuolumne County Animal Control that June Bug had been found, alive, trapped at the bottom of an abandoned 35-foot deep mine shaft less than a few blocks from where she was lost.
“I was actually surprised when they said where they found her and that she was alive,” he said. “I’m still just super happy.”
A rescue mission was conducted, said Sara Critser, of Jamestown, whose boyfriend, Chris Rios, discovered June Bug.
In the dim light of dusk at about 5 p.m., Rios was walking their dog, an American bulldog mix, just as the deep freeze of evening weather was beginning to close in, Critser said.
Their dog ran up, barking, to the edge of an abandoned mineshaft disguised in the drapery of wispy oak branches, overgrown grass, clumps of dirt and a protruding metal pipe. But when Rios followed his dog to the edge, Critser said, he was stunned to hear something was barking back.
“He looked into the hole and saw the dog. He was convinced he was going to try and help it,” she said.
Darkness had already enveloped the forested clearing by the time Rios’ father and brother, Joey Rizzuto, arrived with two ladders. June Bug sat in the deep cavern, looking upwards, and nestled in a pile of blankets that had been thrown down to him for warmth, Critser said.
Rizzuto descended into the shaft, which was only partially illuminated by a flashlight, on the two tied-together ladders.
“He said I’m doing it, I’m getting that dog,” Crister said. “He was really determined.”
Moments later, Rizzuto emerged with the dog in his arms. And though her fur was cold and she appeared fragile, Crister said, June Bug was wagging her tail with excitement.
Brisco received the news while in Lodi, and was at the steps of the 10000 block Pulpit Rock Road by 9 p.m, to retrieve June Bug and take her home, he said.
She was “weak and docile,” he said, but as soon as they arrived home he prepared a feast of boiled chicken so that she could regain her strength.
On Monday morning at the Mono Way Veterinary Hospital, Briscoe learned that June Bug had lost approximately eight pounds.
“She was super skinny,” he said. “Her face don't look any different at all just the rest of her backside was so skinny.”
Kelly McEwen, a veterinary technician at the Mono Way Veterinary Hospital, rubbed June Bug’s ribs under her matted black fur and placed her hand around June Bug’s pelvis to indicate that she had lost a quarter of her body weight while lost.
But, she said, June Bug had been classified by the staff as B.A.R., or bright, alert and responsive.
June Bug had been prescribed an intestinal antibiotic, she said, but blood work had been not deemed necessary.
The only mystery that remained, she said, was how long June Bug had been trapped at the bottom of the shaft.
“It’s incredible how long it was anyway,” she said. “Who knows how long she was actually in there?”
The lack of any apparent muscular atrophy suggested that June Bug had maintained consistent exercise, she added, which could mean she was not trapped for long.
June Bug did not sustain any injuries from the apparent tumble in the shaft and appeared well-hydrated when she was taken to the veterinary office, she said.
Brisco said he was eagerly anticipating picking up June Bug from the veterinary office on Monday night and beginning her steady road to recovery.
Though her spastic demeanor may have contributed to her original flight — “she chases birds and she's running. If she can chase it, she’s chasing it,” he said — he looked forward to returning to work, to home, and to life, with his “baby.”
At the mention of Bosco, June Bug yipped, barked and pranced around the veterinary hospital room before McEwen took her in her arms again.
“I know,” she said. “You just want to go home!”