The Rescue of Chili

Tuesday, June 5, 2012, I was involved in one of the most challenging dog rescues I’ve ever been a part of to date. Around 3:00 pm Monday, Chili, a Wirehaired Dachshund, chased a rabbit under a deck attached to an office building and then under that office building, where she got stuck inside a rabbit tunnel. Those in construction know that this dirt she was in is what holds the foundation to the entire building.

I received a text about the situation around 8:30 Tuesday morning — Chili was still stuck and still alive; she could be heard barking. Her owner, Gina, and my amazing friend (and prayer warrior), Marcia Knight, spent the night at the office hoping Chili would make her way out.

Animal Control and the Fire Department had been called on Monday, but at that point did not have a solution as to how Chili could be found/retrieved. Animal Control’s solution was to put an open can of dog food at the entrance to “a rabbit hole” and hope that Chili find her way out.

I am SO GLAD I have friends in animal rescue that know what they are doing and who don’t give up simply because they can’t think of a solution right then. And I am very glad to have friends who pray and believe in the power of faith.

Kim Little, a professional who rescues stranded animals all over the country when disaster strikes, deserves more credit than words can express. He did not hesitate to grab his gear and was out his door within minutes of my call.  For most of the morning Kim and I worked alone to locate Chili and create a hole large enough to shine a light into in hopes of actually being able to see her.

Thank God for Roger Knight, an amazing friend from high school and husband of Marcia, and their son Carter spent a great deal of time the night before trying to locate little Chili, but had not been able to find her. Roger was such a welcome sight to see when he came back the next morning! He helped Kim to cut the necessary boards we needed to to be able to squeeze our bodies into a position to start digging under the building.

The space between the structure boards visible in the picture is only 16 inches or so wide. We had to lay on our right side and work only with our right hand and arm as we dug and looked for Chili – all the time hoping and praying we selected the right tunnel based upon the sound of her barks. We had.

Roger had to leave for a period of time, but came back in the afternoon. Both Roger and Kim were able to communicate so effectively with one another on how the building’s foundation was built and where and how we needed to dig to reach Chili.

Susie’s and Kim’s expertise on animal rescue was a Godsend. When Kim discovered that the loop on a standard animal catch pole would not form a small enough loop for Chili’s leg, we knew we had to start coming up with creative solutions. Through that creative problem solving we actually built a tool that helped to verify that we had indeed found Chili, were touching her, and it helped to gently expand the hole enough for us to get a better visual. (Thank you to the wonderful and most helpful employee at Lowes that understood the urgency and could think quickly with what type of equipment we would need to build the hook I described.)

Dave Kline with Billings Animal Control returned in the afternoon to see if Chili had come out of the tunnel on her own. When he learned that she had not and when he saw that Kim and I had been able to locate her, had a visual, and that Chili was still alive and barking he did two things that helped us tremendously:

  1. He suggested we might have better luck “catching” Chili if we used flexible PVC pipe cut to the length we needed; and
  2. He later brought the Fire Department.

Because we didn’t know if Chili’s legs would break or dislocate when we pulled we decided to tranquilizer her. Chili’s owner had run to her vet earlier and the vet taped a syringe onto a long rod which we then taped onto one of our extension poles. At the point we needed to tranquillize Chili we did not have a clear visual on her, but we knew we were touching her. Thankfully, Kim was able to inject Chili on the first attempt.

Chili is owned by a married couple and during the ½ hour Chili was out (mid afternoon), Chili’s dad arrived which was a blessing because now we had another strong pair of hands and arms to help with the digging. Both my right arm and Kim’s at this point were tiring and getting weak. Jim, Chili’s dad cleared a greater space for our bodies in the hole and cleared many of the rocks we had to look around to keep Chili in sight. This proved to be incredibly helpful because Kim was going to be spending almost all of the rest of the afternoon in the hole.

When Roger returned in the afternoon (just shortly after Jim) he was equipped with tools — one of which had a PVC pipe inside of it and the rope we would need to create our make-shift catch pole. Roger and Kim then worked as a team with the hand-made catch pole as Kim was able to get a secure loop around both of Chili’s back legs…again while he was laying on his right side, with his head squeezed into the smallest of openings under the building’s foundation, using only the fingers on his right hand because his arm had to be extended to its maximum in order for the pole to reach Chili.

The only light we had was a flashlight we would balance on the dirt and rocks inside the hole.

As Kim and I stayed focused on keeping Chili from moving, Roger and Jim worked together as a team to figure out how to try to reach Chili from the other end of the rabbit tunnel. Carter, Roger’s son, also returned to help. By this time we knew Chili was physically stuck and we would not be able to pull her back out of the hole…however, we needed to make sure she didn’t move and collapse dirt on her that could bury her before we could reach her.

With me, Kelly Dennehy, and Gina, Chili’s mom, taking turns holding the rope that was attached to Chili’s legs, Roger, Jim and Carter began digging to locate the right rabbit hole. Kim measured how far in Chili was by using the PVC pipe and a Sharpie. With this Roger was able to make an educated plan as to where to focus the digging. Once Kim and Roger were able to determine if Chili was above or below the black cloth used in creating the foundation, the three guys, Roger, Jim, and Carter, did the incredible – they found the correct and most delicate tunnel.

But we still had a problem. We needed more space for their bodies and we needed help moving the dirt safely.

Praise God and thanks to Dave Kline right when we needed the Fire Department to arrive, they did!

When the Captain saw the hole we had created to find and see Chili he was able to understand how we could safely remove only the dirt and gravel we needed to in order to reach Chili from the other end of the tunnel.

Out came the power saws and fresh digging muscles!

Almost 7 hours after Kim and I first started digging that morning, Kim was still in the hole and for the first time could see a small beam of light hitting Chili from the other end of the rabbit tunnel.

We knew at that point we were close to safely reaching Chili.

In what felt like the most amazing and fast turn of events, because of the strategic digging done by the guys at the other end of the tunnel Kim was able to see the ground lower under Chili’s hind end and in that moment Chili turned herself around and was now facing Kim. We immediately quieted everyone and had Gina lean over Kim in the hole and call out to Chili.

As Chili slowly made her way to Gina’s voice, Kim was finally able to touch her collar with his finger tips. At that point, she just kept making her way to Gina’s voice and Kim was able to safely guide her out of the tunnel!

When she emerged everyone cheered and the tears flowed.

Veterinarian Sonia Whitely was present to aid Chili with whatever was necessary and examine her once she was out of the tunnel. Thankfully, Chili was in pretty good condition considering the circumstances.

In all, Chili was stuck in that dark, underground rabbit tunnel for more than 26 hours.

She kept her will to live strong and she kept letting us know she was alive.

Prayer; faith; focused minds; creative thinking; positive, solution based language; willing workers, and beyond a shadow of a doubt, God’s guidance brought about a very happy ending.

Truly Praise God…and seal off the foundation of your office or home from access to burrowing animals!