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Dog raised safely from mine shaft

With a mournful look and strapped into a littler made for animals, a dog is hoisted out of an old mine shaft by the Tuolumne County Search and Rescue Team. Maggie Beck/Union Democrat
Members of the Tuolumne County Search and Rescue Team Wednesday rescued a dog that had fallen into a 40-foot hole, part of an abandoned mine.

Rawhide Road resident Denny Bettencourt was walking her own dogs Tuesday on the Bureau of Land Management land near where she lives when she heard barking.

It wasn’t until she was on her way back that she realized the dog was in trouble, she said.

Bettencourt called Animal Control, which came out to the area to evaluate the dog’s situation and notified Search and Rescue.

Search and Rescue doesn’t rescue animals if it is too dangerous for the humans, said Barry Edwards, technical team leader. In this case, however, the hole appeared secure enough to lower a rescuer down.

When the group arrived at the hole, believed to be a collapsed air shaft, part of a former mining operation, the dog was quiet.

“It was a good thing he was sounding off when I came through the first time,” Bettencourt said.
 From the bottom of the hole, the black-and-tan hunting dog looked up eagerly, wagging his tail.

Somehow, he had slipped into the hole, survived uninjured and remained there long enough for his ribs to protrude sharply from his sides.

Animal Control Manager Jennifer Clarke stood by to take the dog once he was rescued. The team held off on lowering the dog water or food after Supervising Animal Control Officer Teri Elam’s evaluation Tuesday.

“Depending on how long he’s been down there, we don’t want to flood his system with water and food,” Clarke said.

The team rigged up a rope system and slowly lowered team member Matt Thelander into the shaft, nearly cylindrical with rocks and clay jutting out of the sides.

The dog’s howling grew weak as the team worked, after long hours of crying for help. As Thelander got closer, the dog started growling but was wagging his tail.

“He was just a little scared,” Thelander said later. “He opened up.”

The dog’s demeanor did change when Thelander began petting him. He turned his face up to lick Thelander’s face.

The dog allowed Thelander to put him in a litter and hook him up to the ropes a team controlled from above.

“Good doggy,” Thelander said as he hefted the dog, frozen, likely in fear, up the wall. Clay and pieces of rock showered down on the pair.

Once near the lip of the hole, the dog jumped out of the litter and greeted the crowd waiting at the top.

Clarke led him off for a veterinarian’s evaluation, which will determine the extent of his dehydration and the correct medical care.

Animal Control is also looking for the owner of the dog, which wasn’t wearing a collar.

He was lucky to make it out alive, Edwards said.

“I don’t know how he fell in there and wasn’t hurt,” he said.

    Contact Alisha Wyman at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or 588-4526.

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