WADING RIVER, NEW YORK – At 12:50 p.m. on Sunday, December 8 – while the Wading River Fire Department (WRFD) was escorting Santa through the community to meet with local children and to collect food for its annual “Stuff-a-Bus” food drive – the Department was activated for a miscellaneous alarm to investigate a report of a large dog stuck in a drainage pipe at the Great Rock Golf Course.
Upon arrival, WRFD Chief Anthony Bitalvo and Riverhead Town Police Officer Castantine arrived to meet the dog’s owner Jim Devaney who reported that his 110-pound Black Labrador Retriever named “Carson” had accidently slipped down a three-foot embankment into a half-frozen drainage pond adjacent to the 18th hole of the golf course. While attempting to back out of the chilling pond water, the startled dog inadvertently backed itself into a narrow, 18-inch wide drainage pipe that runs horizontally underground to route rain water runoff from higher elevations into the pond. In its frantic attempt to get out of the water, the dog managed to back itself several feet further into the pipe, at which point the dog no longer had enough vertical clearance to use its legs for forward movement to return to the pipe’s open end. Despite Devaney’s best efforts to calm the dog and coax Carson to come forward, the dog continued to thrash about only to push itself further back into the pipe.
Chief Bitalvo was joined by WRFD Assistant Chief’s Heller, Gluck, and Berg, and the Department’s heavy rescue truck, an engine, and several other support vehicles, each with a full crew of firefighters and emergency medical personnel.
With concern about the cold water the dog had fallen into and the air temperature just above freezing, Devaney and the emergency responders knew they had to act quickly. Since the lower half of the pipe was filled with water and the sound of the dog’s frantic breathing was becoming more labored and faint as the dog continued to back itself further into the pipe, a quick effort was made to ascertain the best location to dig ahead of the dog’s current position and to then cut into the pipe to free the dog. While this plan was being put into action, contingency plans to bring in heavy equipment and a trench rescue team were being discussed.
Wasting no time, an access hole was dug approximately 50 feet back from the open end of the pipe where the dog initially entered. A narrow vertical vent pipe, midway between the pond’s edge and the rescue hole, was used to talk to the dog and to lower dog treats into the main pipe to encourage the dog to come forward, but to no avail.
Quick work was made of the digging and the top surface of the drainage pipe was reached within minutes at approximately four feet below ground. As preparations were made to cut into the pipe, the hope at the scene was that the dog hadn’t already backed up past the point of the rescue hole. Several minutes later, a large portion of the top section of the drainage pipe was removed with a reciprocating saw and to everyone’s relief, the dog was within a foot or two of the newly opened rescue hole. Carson backed up to the opening whereupon he enthusiastically met his owner who helped the dog up to the surface.
Carson was evaluated on scene and found to be in good condition given his misadventure. All on-scene emergency personnel were placed back into service to rejoin the Santa escort with a sense of relief following the successful rescue.