Owner Mattie Moore and her Shepherd Mack were taking their normal two-hour stroll around Buffalo’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Park when they came across a large puddle in their path. Hoping to get around the standing water, Moore and Mack stepped on a patch of grass next to the path. Suddenly, the ground beneath Moore’s feet gave way and she fell into a large sinkhole.
As Moore struggled to pull herself from the sinkhole, Mack ran to his owner’s side. But just as Moore was able to hoist herself out of danger, poor Mack fell.
“He thought something was wrong,” Moore tells The Buffalo News. “He comes up behind me and falls right in.”
Moore heard a thud, a splash, and a whine as Mack hit the bottom of the sinkhole, about 10 feet deep into the earth. Moore says she couldn’t believe what was happening.
“He was crying, I was crying, but I knew I had to stay calm because I didn’t know what was going on,” Moore tells WIVB.
Terrified, Moore pulled out her cell phone and called the police. Moments later, police officers and 13 members of the Buffalo Fire Department’s Technical Rescue Team arrived at the scene.
“We are trained in these types of rescues,” Battalion Chief Mark Hillery tells WKBW. “We have the equipment to perform these rescues. We just don’t see them a lot.”
Chief Hillery says that as he and his crew got to work trying to recover Mack from the sinkhole, Moore was almost inconsolable.
“She was frantic,” he says. “You could tell she really loved her dog. She was crying. She was very emotional.”
Though the firefighters tried to use a harness to secure Mack and pull him from the sinkhole, it was clear the rescue was going nowhere. Someone would have to climb down into the earth next to the frightened German Shepherd if they had a hope of getting Mack out of his precarious situation.
That’s when firefighter and animal lover Mike Paveljack volunteered. Making sure Mack was safe meant a lot to him because of his own life experiences with dogs.
“Late last year I lost a dog,” Paveljack explains. “His name was Scooter and he was very important to my family. So I could see how the lady felt. So when our Chief asked for someone to get into a harness to go down and get this dog, I jumped at the opportunity.”
Rescuers used wooden boards and a strategically placed tripod and rope system to distribute Paveljack’s weight before lowering the brave firefighter into the sinkhole. Once down next to Mack, Paveljack and rescuers above were able to lift Mack to safety.
“The dog was very happy, we were quite ecstatic, and I know the owner was very very happy,” Chief Hillery says.
“The dog was safe and she was going to go to church and say a prayer for us, so that’s nice,” Paveljack remembers. “And you feel appreciated.”
As for Mack, his owner knows he was relieved to be out of that sinkhole.
“He was happy to be out,” she says. “It was a beautiful thing. He was wagging his tail, looking at all the people.”
City officials believe a collapsed sewer line may be to blame for the MLK Park sinkhole, but a full investigation is underway. For now, the dangerous hole remains covered.