Survival Update

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Missing Dog Trapped in a Cave Found Alive!

A dog that had been missing for two months was recently found, lost, and trapped in a Missouri cave.

Jeff Bohnert had all but given up hope of ever seeing his beloved poodle mix, Abby, ever again. She had been missing since early June. Two months later, he got a text from a neighbor – “People exploring a nearby cave found a dog. Could it be Abby?”

Bohnert doubted it, but still curious, he went to the cave site near his rural Missouri home. That’s when he saw the picture one of the rescuers took.

But his doubts turned to jubilation when after one look, he said, “that’s my dog!” 

Making Abby’s tale of survival even more amazing is the fact that she’s just a few weeks shy of turning 14. Yet somehow, she managed to survive nearly 60 days out on her own, apparently much or all of it in a barren, pitch-dark, 58-degree cave!

Abby and Bohnert’s other dog, Summer, do everything together, including getting into mischief.

On June 9, the pair ran away from home, Bohnert recalled. It had happened before, and in the rural area near Perryville in eastern Missouri, it was generally no big deal. The dogs would scamper through the fields, maybe chase something, eventually get bored and find their way back home. So, when the dogs did not return that night, Bohnert was unconcerned, and he went to bed.

But to his chagrin, when Bohnert awoke the next morning, Summer was back home, but Abby was not.

“They never separate,” he said. “I figured something bad had happened. I mean, she’s old. She could just get overcome by the heat.”

Bohnert posted about his missing dog on Facebook, reached out to neighbors, and contacted police, but no one had seen Abby.

Days turned to weeks, and Bohnert resigned himself to never seeing Abby again, hoping in his heart that if she did pass, at least it was in a peaceful and not painful way.

Then On Aug. 6, nearly two months to the day since she had gone missing, Gerry Keene and five other adults, along with five children, had just entered the Berome Moore Cave, planning a day of exploring. One of the kids ran ahead of the group and yelled back to his dad, “There’s a dog in here.”

“Their dad was like, no; there’s not,” Keene said.

But, yes, there was.

“She was just lying there curled up in a ball,” Keene recalled. “She lifted her head and looked at us, but she didn’t respond to verbal commands. She looked like she was pretty close to being done.”

Keene enlisted the help of another caver who happened to be there, Rick Haley. They knew Abby couldn’t make the estimated 500-foot walk back to the entrance, especially since it was through tight passageways and up a steep incline.

Haley was trained in cave rescues, and he retrieved a duffel bag and a blanket from his truck. They put the blanket inside the bag, the dog instinctively took to the warm blanket after weeks of laying in the cold, dank mud.

Still, getting Abby out was tricky, given her fragility.

“It was critical that we not give her any rough handling,” Haley said. In the rocky areas through small passageways, “We would carry her short distance, set her down, then kind of move in front of her, reach back, pick her up, and put her in front of us.” He described it as “kind of a leap-frog kind of thing.”

Soon after initially finding Abby, Keene briefly went to a few homes nearby to see if anyone was missing a dog. One neighbor reached out to Bohnert, who lives close enough to the cave site that he can see it from his home.

He went there assuming it couldn’t be Abby — how could a 13-year-old dog have possibly survived trapped in a cave for nearly 60 days?

And yet, somehow she did! 

Bohnert waited with bated breath outside of the cave. A crowd had gathered thee along with him as word of the doggie rescue had spread. It took roughly an hour and a half since Bohnert arrived on the scene until the cavers emerged with his precious pooch. As they came out into the light of day, one of her rescuers gave Abby a bite of beef.

“She almost ate his finger off,” Keene said. Almost immediately, she began to perk up.

Bohnert figures Abby ended up in the cave after falling into a sinkhole or a hidden entrance. Haley said there were paw prints everywhere, indicating she initially tried very hard to get out. After that, Haley and Bohnert believe she just hunkered down and went into a kind of hibernation state, able to essentially live off her own body fat as bears do in similar caves during the long winter months.

“I think she was just in a preservation mode,” Bohnert said.

Abby, a poodle-hound mix, is not a small dog, normally weighing about 50 pounds, Bohnert said, but he guessed she lost half her body weight in the cave. Since her rescue, she has regained weight and started to get back the voice she likely lost, barking for help.

She’s also wagging her tail again, showing she’s putting the trauma behind her.

“It’s amazing how she’s springing back already,” Bohnert said. “She’s acting like herself again.”