A poodle trapped 500 feet below ground for two months was miraculously returned to her owner after a group of cavers happened upon her while exploring.
Owner Jeff Bohnert from Perryville, Missouri never thought he would see mixed-breed poodle Abby, 13, again after she went missing on June 9.
But when experienced cavers Gerry Keene and Rick Haley took a group into the bowels of the Tom Moore caves south of St Louis, they found an unexpected dweller.
Abby was skinny, covered in dirt and curled up on the mud floor when they found her last week.
She was so frail that she could not wag her tail or even whimper, Haley said.
Rick Haley (right) and Gerry Keene (left) hold Abby, 13, in a cosy duffle bag after the rescue
After being handed a beef stick, Abby was ‘ready to go up for another adventure’, Keene said. The 13-year-old dog was stranded alone from June 9 to August 6, owner Jeff confirmed
Dogs can usually only survive a few days without food and water, but luckily there’s ‘ample water’ in the cave, Haley told MailOnline.
‘As for food, I can think of nothing. It was evident by inspection of her she hadn’t eaten in a very long time.
‘It was heartbreaking to see this and think about how she endured.’
After giving her urgent help and a cosy duffle bag to rest in, Keene and fire chief Rob Cahoon began knocking on doors in the neighborhood to track down the owner.
Haley (left) was alerted to Abby curled up in a ball on the wet mud floor by a member of his caving group. Right: Keene gives the mixed-breed poodle some well-timed love and attention
Haley rubs Abby as she took time to get used to the light before being returned to her owner
Armed with a picture of Abby on their phone, neighbors eventually recognised her – and directed the rescuers to Bohnert.
Haley said Abby is lucky not to have drowned in ‘vertical’ and ‘very tight’ cave passage, which often fills up with water.
‘At times, there was likely too much water. There was heavy rain in the time period she was there.’
Abby is recovering slowly and ‘getting back to herself’, Haley quoted owner Jeff as saying.
Keene (left) struggles as he navigates Abby’s exit from the cave 500ft below ground. Right: Haley smiles as he looks at a worse-for-wear Abby during her journey up to safety
She has also returned home after receiving treatment from vets.
‘Abby was just trying to stay as comfortable as she could’, Haley told NPR, ‘which was hard down there because it’s very wet and it’s 58 degrees (14C) or so.
After they handed her a beef stick, Abby seemed ‘ready to go up for another adventure’, Keene added.