Puppy plunges 60 feet down pipe, but she’s OK

By ERIC OLSON : The Herald-Sun
Jul 11, 2001 : 12:22 am ET

DURHAM -- After plunging to the bottom of a 60-foot underground pipe, a 7-week-old puppy was pulled to safety after two hours and several attempts by Durham firefighters Thursday night.

"How did you do that?" asked a grateful Gacien McMillan when she had her puppy back in her hands. "You’re all muddy. Are you OK?"

McMillan, of 716 Belvin Ave., returned home from work at about 7 p.m. and went directly to her back yard because Diamond, the puppy’s mother, was in a frenzy.

The half-poodle, half-Chihuahua was running frantically between a back-yard fence and her doghouse, a converted well cover, apparently trying to alert her master that her puppy had taken a plunge.

As McMillan neared the doghouse, she said she heard the puppy, named Girl, barking from the bottom of a six-inch diameter pipe -- formerly used as a well -- inside the doghouse.

"The puppy was barking when I pulled up, so I’m thinking she had just fallen in," she said.

McMillan’s brother, Terrell Leggett, tied together a pair of leashes to try and hoist Girl to safety, but they proved too short.

After a call to 911, an animal control officer arrived and assessed the situation, then called the Durham Fire Department.

Armed with a pipe pole -- a gadget used to pull down ceilings after a fire -- and a large supply of rope, Durham Fire Capt. Terry Paschall and technicians Sean Boone and Shannon Sykes went to work at about 8 p.m.

The trio originally used a rope, which proved too flimsy, to wrap around Girl’s neck. Then they fashioned rope into a noose onto the pipe pole and lowered it into the pipe, which also proved fruitless.

They even tried to lower a dogcatcher’s noose into the pipe, but the tension required to tighten the noose pulled the device free of Girl’s body.

Boone repeatedly tried to coax Girl with whistles, tapping on the pipe and even begging.

"Put your head in there, dog," he said.

Leggett and McMillan watched patiently throughout the ordeal.

McMillan said she had left for work at 1 p.m. and left Girl outside for the first time.

"I guess she’s so small, she must have squeezed out of the collar," she said.

Leggett said the puppy’s name lacked originality because he "ran out of names" after Diamond’s second litter in a year. He promised to rename the puppy if she was rescued.

Nearly two hours later, at about 10 p.m., the trio fashioned another noose out of cable, attached it to the pipe pole and gingerly hoisted Girl back to safety.

"Its name is Precious now," Leggett said as he held the trembling puppy to his stomach.

Aside from being covered in mud, Precious seemed no worse for the wear.

After the rescue, a firefighter placed a cinder block and a rock atop the open pipe.