Firefighters rescue deaf and blind senior dog from sinkhole

Susanne Geary and her 14-year-old Lhasa Apso, Samantha; the dog spent more than seven hours at the bottom of a sinkhole before she was rescued. (Photo credit: Abby Theodros/WHAG)

A Frederick, Md., dog is recovering at home after firefighters pulled her from a sinkhole Sunday afternoon.

Samantha, a 14-year-old Lhasa Apso, was taking a walk with her owner, Susanne Geary, when suddenly the ground in front of her feet gave way.

“I was looking at the bird feeder and the next thing I knew, she was gone,” Geary tells the Frederick News Post.

Poor Samantha, who is blind and deaf, fell eight feet to the bottom of a sinkhole while Geary looked on in horror.

Gleary first tried to pull little Samantha out of the deep hole with her leash, which was still attached to Samantha’s collar. But after only a few tugs, Samantha’s collar slipped off, and Geary was back at square one.

“I screamed, ‘Help! Help!’ and some neighbors came out to help me but we could not get her out so of course we had to call emergency,” Geary tells CBS Baltimore.

Neighbors called 9-1-1, and within moments a whole bevy of emergency responders arrived on the scene. The Fort Detrick Special Operations Unit, Frederick County Advanced Technical Rescue, Frederick Department of Public Works, Frederick County Animal Control, and a variety of regional fire and rescue departments got to work immediately.

In all, 25 rescue workers took part in Sunday’s daring sinkhole rescue operation.

The sinkhole proved to be quite challenging, explains Independent Hose Co. Station No. 1 Chief Rodney Masser. While the group initially spent 45 minutes trying to dig into the earth by hand, they soon realized they’d need to use a backhoe to get down to Samantha.

“It was a very narrow opening, like a crevice that washed away underground,” Masser says of the sinkhole, which was roughly 3 by 12 feet and formed between two giant pieces of rock.

Samantha waited, frightened and cold, pacing back and forth at the bottom of the sinkhole while her rescuers toiled away above.

“We tried several different options [to reach Samantha],” Masser explains. “Of course, the weather wasn’t cooperating, with the rain and the sleet, snow, and wind.”

The group worried about Samantha in the freezing cold temperatures, so they brought in special equipment to keep the little dog warm.

“We’re pumping warm air down into the hole. They tried using food to bring the dog closer to the opening,” describes Fire and Rescue Chief Mike Dmuchowski.

Finally, at 2:30 that afternoon — after more than seven hours — rescuers were able to extract Samantha from the dangerous sinkhole.

Once out of the earth, Samantha was rushed to the Care Veterinary Center, where Dr. Adriane Shell checked Samantha for injuries. Amazingly, all the Lhasa Apso needed was a warm bath, Dr. Shell explains.

“She was so caked with mud that the initial exam was a little difficult,” the veterinarian says. “We essentially gave the dog a complimentary bath. She was sleeping soundly in her cage when the owner came to pick her up.”

Sunday night, free from the sinkhole, cleared by the veterinarian, and back in Susanne Geary’s arms, Samantha spent the rest of the night curled up by the warm, comforting fireplace. Geary couldn’t be more thrilled that her best friend made it through the day’s ordeal.

“She’s home, she ate, she’s safe and I’m happy,” Geary says.

Sources: Daily Mail, Frederick News Post, CBS Baltimore