Amy Ochs couldn’t figure out where her 13-year old dog Blizzard was hiding.
When she opened her front door to summon him and the family’s other dog, Maverick, after they had spent about five minutes in her Colorado Springs, Colorado, fenced yard, Blizzard was nowhere to be seen. She and a family friend started to search for the dog and soon heard strange noises.
“We have a manhole on the side of the driveway and a trailer was parked over it,” Ochs told PEOPLE. “We looked and saw the manhole cover was off.”
The family friend looked down and saw Blizzard in a pool of blood with a sharp point sticking through his left leg. The strange noises had come from the seriously injured dog the family had adopted as a puppy. Not sure what to do, a panicked Ochs called 911. Colorado Springs Firefighters and Animal Law Enforcement (ALE) officers quickly arrived.
Calling for help rather than trying to rescue Blizzard is likely what saved the dog’s life, said ALE officer Sara Tucker.
“I have seen a lot of weird situations but I’ve never seen a situation like that before,” she said. “He landed just in the right way to impale himself. It is not a small hole. We had a whole person down there. Thank God he landed the way he did.”
Soon after the authorities showed up, Jennifer Rainey, DVM, arrived on the scene, and was the person chosen to go down into the manhole.
“It was a matter of getting down there and assessing the situation,” said Rainey, who works with the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region. “I gave him pain relief and then assessed the injury. He was actually hanging by muscle and skin from the left forearm. When I got him loose and lifted him off the pipe he went into shock.”
As Rainey worked to release the dog, which didn’t suffer any serious permanent damage, Och’s husband Don Johnson laid next to the manhole talking to the dog and petting him as he could.
“The family made it clear they didn’t want him euthanized and we assured them that is not why we were there,” said Rainey. “It makes me sad people believe that. I think that’s why many people jump in to save animals [and further injure the pets] and get hurt themselves. We are here to try to save lives. We are here to help anyway we can.”
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After pain relievers, sedatives, oxygen and other treatments were administered, Blizzard was rushed to the family’s vet and then taken to an emergency facility. He had been in the hole just over three hours when he was rescued, said Ochs.
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“The members of the Fire Department and Humane Society came too and they waited to find out if he would be okay,” said Ochs. “That meant so much to us.”
After a brief hospitalization, Ochs, Johnson, the couple’s seven children and two grandchildren joyfully welcomed Blizzard home. He has “stitches galore,” said Ochs, but is expected to make a full recovery.
The family discovered a bear had broken part of the fence around their yard, allowing Blizzard to escape. They have secured the area and will ensure the manhole cover stays firmly in place.
“I feel so blessed,” said Ochs. “I was worried that they would euthanize him, but I found out they really want to save animals. I didn’t realize there are such wonderful resources out there. People really do care. It was truly a great lesson.”
Gretchen Pressley, spokesperson for the Pikes Peak Region Humane Society, said she and her colleagues focus on educating the community about their roles.
“There are a lot of different lessons from this,” she said. “We are here to help both people and animals. We realize people’s pets are family to them. We want everyone to be just a little bit happier once we leave.”