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Rescuers save deaf, blind dog from Md. sinkhole

Because of cold temperatures, firefighters used equipment to blow warm air into the hole during the rescue effort to protect the dog from hypothermia

The Frederick News-Post

FREDERICK, Md. — Samantha, a 14-year-old Lhasa apso with normally snow-white fur, was brown and shaking when she emerged from a sinkhole in the early afternoon hours of a snowy Sunday.

Samantha had been trapped underground for nearly eight hours after she fell into the hole, just steps from Susanne Geary's back porch.

Geary had taken Samantha into the backyard at about 7 a.m. when she suddenly realized the dog, which stands barely a foot off the ground and is deaf and blind, was no longer by her side.

“I was looking at the bird feeder and the next thing I knew, she was gone,” Geary said Sunday evening.

At first, Samantha was still attached to her pink leash by a thin leather collar, so Geary tried to bring her back to the surface.

“I was trying to pull her out of the hole and then I just pulled her collar right off of her,” Geary said.

Soon, the yard in back of her apartment was full of emergency responders.

Rescuers included members of nearby fire companies, the Fort Detrick Special Operations Unit, regional fire and rescue officials, Frederick County Advanced Technical Rescue, Frederick Department of Public Works, and Frederick County Animal Control.

The sinkhole was about 3 feet by 12 feet and formed in the area of basketball courts near Old Farm Drive and Wainwright Court and did not directly affect housing or the road. A portion of Old Farm Drive was closed for several hours during the rescue effort.

Chief Rodney Masser, of the Independent Hose Co. Station No. 1, said the rescue effort was complicated because of the geology of the hole, which formed between two large pieces of rock, he said.

“It was a very narrow opening, like a crevice that washed away underground,” Masser said.

Because of the bone-chilling temperatures, responders used equipment to blow warm air into the hole during the rescue effort to protect Samantha from hypothermia, Masser said.

“We tried several different options” to reach the dog over the course of the day, Masser said. “Of course, the weather wasn't cooperating, with the rain and the sleet, snow and wind.”

Masser said those conditions made it one of the most difficult rescue efforts they've undertaken for a fallen dog.

Resting at home
By Sunday night, as the rain was tapering off and clouds were beginning to thin, Samantha was home with Geary and resting by the fireplace.

“She's home, she ate, she's safe and I'm happy,” Geary said.

Dr. Adriane Shell, at Care Veterinary Center, said she treated Samantha after she was pulled from the ground. Shell checked to see if Samantha aspirated mud and felt for bumps, bruises and broken bones.

“She was so caked with mud that the initial exam was a little difficult,” Shell said.

In the end, “we essentially gave the dog a complimentary bath,” Shell said. “She was sleeping soundly in her cage when the owner came to pick her up.”

As she cuddled Samantha's back Sunday evening, Geary said she was thankful for the work of the first responders, who kept trying even as she started to fear the worst.

At one point during the day, Geary — who normally would have been at church on a Sunday — came inside to pray.

“I prayed to Saint Francis, the patron saint of animals,” she said. “We were all praying.”

Copyright 2014 The Frederick News-Post
All Rights Reserved

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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