The dog who miraculously survived after it fell an equivalent of 50 storeys down the Big Hole in Kimberley, and then managed to stay alive without food for eight days, was finally brought to the surface after a 15-hour rescue mission over the weekend.
The mixed breed that has stolen the hearts of dog lovers across the world almost never made it because it was considered too dangerous for rescue workers to venture so deep, where the ground is rocky and unstable.
The heroic rescue turned into a media sensation with social networks, online stories and videos of the dog going viral all over the world.
While offers are flooding in from as far as Canada, England and Saudi Arabia to adopt it, Warrant Officer John Seeley, from the police’s search and rescue unit, who risked life and limb to save the dog, is toying with the idea of becoming its new owner.
Seeley, who visited it at the veterinary surgery on Sunday, said that he had already developed an emotional attachment with the dog.
“She sat on my lap and other than being extremely tired, she is in perfect health. Even if I don’t adopt her because I have four other dogs and cats at home, I hope that she remains in Kimberley so that I can visit her regularly.”
The dog, according to the veterinary surgeon who examined it, recently had a litter of puppies and is about two years old.
The veterinary surgeon added that the dog had a good appetite and apart than some fleas and the nails that were worn from climbing onto the ledge, it was expected to make a full recovery.
“Although she was frightened and a little cautious of people when she came in, she quickly became accustomed to humans and loves being petted. It is difficult to say whether she is a stray dog because she would not have survived so long or been in such a good health.”
No one has come forward to claim the dog yet.
The operation, involving the police’s search and rescue unit, ER24, the municipal fire brigade, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and De Beers officials, had to be called off at 5.40pm on Friday because it was too dangerous for the rescue attempt to continue.
Witnesses said they saw the dog in the Big Hole on November 16, although it became more visible on Friday morning at about 9am when it was spotted swimming around the perimeter of the hole.
Big Hole project manager, Dirk Coetzee, was not certain how the dog had managed to get into the premises, although officials believed that it was running around the edges of the hole and had entered through a hole in the wire fencing.
“It is astonishing that the dog survived such a steep fall without any injuries” he added.
The rescue attempt was put on hold for a second time on Saturday when the dog jumped back into the water after Seeley swam more than 300m to reach its resting place near a ledge.
Seeley then waited for another hour to win the trust of the dog after it crawled into a crevice in the Big Hole. He eventually managed to place a life jacket and a harness around her and the two were pulled to the surface on Saturday around 12.15pm.
“From the moment I went into the water, I knew that it was not going to be an easy task. At one stage we were going to give up. The dog was traumatised and had gone through so much. I managed to calm her down and after I touched her and placed the harness around her, she gave her full co-operation.”
Seeley said he spoke to the dog, calling it a “beautiful dog” and managed placing a leash on its neck.
“While we were swimming back, the dog became exhausted and stopped swimming. The harness dragged her down and I used my one arm to keep her afloat.
“My love for dogs kept me going even when I wanted to give up. The dedication of the rescue team and the support of members of the public made it all possible. What is important is that everyone is safe and the dog is in good health. I hope that she finds a good home,” he said.
Seeley added that the mission became an easy task after anchor points, with the assistance of De Beers, were found for the unstable ground.
The dog will now be accommodated at the local SPCA where it will be put up for adoption.
SPCA inspector, Mario van der Westhuizen, estimated that the dog would have been able to survive for about a week without food because it was able to rehydrate herself with the water at the bottom of the Big Hole.
“However, the dog has been swimming in the water for a long time.”
The dog has been nicknamed “Captain” by some members of the public after singer Kurt Darren offered to pay for a helicopter to assist in the rescue mission.
The possibility of using a police helicopter that would have flown in from Bloemfontein was abandoned after it was discovered that the wrench ropes were too short.
De Beers spokesman, Abel Madonsela, said the company had secured a 100m steel rope that was being used as an anchor to hoist Seeley and the dog to the surface on Saturday.
“We are happy that the dog was brought to the surface alive.”
He indicated that the operation was initially called off on Friday because the ground was too unstable.
ER24 Northern Cape operations manager, Albert Hensberg, said ropes measuring 400m in length were used to get to the precipice during the first rescue attempt.
“The rocks were very sharp, while the ground was extremely unstable and loose and could easily have resulted in injury due to slipping. We could also not risk losing another life in the process.”
He added that the dog was a strong swimmer.
The viewing platform at the Kimberley Big Hole was filled to capacity as visitors flocked to the site to catch a glimpse of the dog.
Some people were overcome with emotion and were crying and praying for the dog.
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