Tryon crews save dog from groundhog hole

Published 5:50 pm Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tank Waters, Christian Miller and Kenneth Tackett work to rescue Mazzy, a Shih Tzu owned by Robin Sandler, from a groundhog hole. (photo submitted by the Tryon Fire Department)

Fire departments are known at times to save cats from trees, but on Sunday, March 18, the Tryon Fire Department saved a dog from a groundhog hole in a hill.
The Tryon Fire Department was dispatched to 101 Mountain View Lane in Tryon around 3:45 p.m. in reference to a dog that was stuck in a groundhog hole, according to Tryon Fire Chief Joey Davis.
Davis said upon arrival, firefighters discovered the hole in question wasn’t on level ground but on an embankment containing multiple holes or tunnels for the groundhog(s).
Dog owner Robin Sandler said she started out of her house with leash in hand to take her 4-year-old Shih Tzu, Mazzy, for a walk when Mazzy spotted an animal and darted out of the gate.
Sandler said Mazzy ran up the side of the dirt-covered hill and directly into what appeared to be a groundhog hole. Sandler said she tried for an hour or so to get Mazzy to come out but finally got desperate and called 911.
Davis said firefighters’ first thought when looking in the hole was that it went down and perhaps the dog was down the tunnel and simply couldn’t get out. Firefighters initially opened the hole wider with shovels, thinking that would give them better access without digging down and putting more dirt on the dog.
Davis said the fire department was concerned about safety because of the possibility the embankment could be unstable; a large tree was located above them with the roots exposed.
After firefighters started digging by hand, they realized the hole went up, so they called public works’ employee Gary Walker.
“All the guys tried everything they could to widen the hole and see if we couldn’t grab her,” Sandler said. “After an hour we realized it wouldn’t work.”
Sandler said Walker then showed up with a backhoe and methodically began scraping dirt away from the hill around the hole where Mazzy had disappeared. While he was digging with the backhoe, Sandler said, firefighters stood by prepared with equipment such as oxygen.
After they had been digging for about 10 minutes, the dog popped its head out of an unseen tunnel.
“We used the backhoe as protection for our personnel and we hand dug the dog out,” Davis said. “The dog appeared to be okay, but we did attempt to give it some oxygen with the pet masks we carry and advised the owner to follow up with her vet.”
Davis said the town cleared the scene around 5:45 p.m., so the dog was in the hole for about three hours.
When Mazzy popped her head up, everyone cheered, Sandler said.
“I hugged every one of them because I just couldn’t believe they had actually saved my baby,” Sandler said. “They made me feel so grateful that they didn’t give up.”

Tank Waters and Kenneth Tackett search for the dog Mazzy in an embankment where she disappeared into a groundhog hole. (photo submitted by the Tryon Fire Department)

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