Dog Stuck in Sinkhole for 16 Days Rescued

The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 16, 2005; 7:17 PM

TOWNSEND, Tenn. -- Trapped for 16 days down a 70-foot-sinkhole, a dog named Buck will live to hunt another day after being rescued by rangers near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

"The dog was emaciated and had some bruising, but was able to walk around," Ranger Rick Brown said after spending several hours Tuesday rigging up ropes and rappelling down the hole to lift the 2 1/2-year-old blond Mountain Cur to the surface.

"Aside from being emaciated, exhausted and sore, the dog appeared to be in pretty good shape," Brown said.

The dog, a medium-sized breed common with the pioneers _ the book "Old Yeller" was about a Mountain Cur but played by a yellow Labrador in the movie _ was recovering at a veterinarian's office, Smokies spokesman Bob Miller said Wednesday.

Hikers at a backcountry campsite off the Ace Gap Trail in the park reported hearing a dog barking on Monday and tracked the sound to a 30-by-40-foot ground hole about 300 yards away.

A builder working on a nearby house was able to get close enough to the edge to see the dog about 40 feet down, but couldn't reach him. That evening, park rangers were called to the sinkhole but they couldn't hear the dog.

Brown and three other rangers returned around 10 a.m. Tuesday. Brown climbed 40 feet down to a landing, but there was no sign of the dog. Using a light, he found a small opening and a second dropoff.

Peering through, he saw the dog lying at the bottom, another 30 feet down. When he called out, the dog stood up and looked at him. Using a makeshift harness, the rangers lifted the dog out of the cave around 3 p.m.

Buck wore a radio collar and a tag identifying his owner, a Townsend man who lost track of the dog while hunting raccoons 16 days before. The owner was "very appreciative" to get Buck back, Miller said.

The park doesn't plan to send him a bill for the recovery.

"Sometimes you have to be a good neighbor, and rescuing a dog falls into that category," Miller said.


© 2005 The Associated Press