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A Rescued Dog Is Rescued Again



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A nine-month-old puppy adopted by her forever family just a few months ago gave her owners a good scare recently after she got away from them and ran into a storm drain, becoming trapped for over two hours. She was rescued, uninjured, thanks to collaborative efforts between a local animal control officer and firefighters.

Maddie and Brendan Pratt adopted Mabel in October. The young dog is still getting used to her new home, which is west of the geographic center of Newtown. Mabel’s pedigree is unclear, but her owners have been told she’s a Lab mix.

“She’s definitely got some hound in her, and I’ve been told she looks like a black mouth cur,” Maddie said Wednesday afternoon. Mabel arrived in Newtown through a rescue organization in Texas, and is still getting used to her new life, which also includes the couple’s 18-month-old son.

“She came with her own traumas, so she’s still pretty skittish,” Maddie said. In the backyard of her home this week, Mabel playfully bounced around her fenced-in area, alternating between protective barks, playful yelps, and pouncing on a few different toys scattered around her on the grass.

Last Friday afternoon, however, “something spooked her and she pulled out of his hand and she ran off,” Maddie continued.

Brendan was getting ready to take Mabel, along with the couple’s 18-month-old son, for a walk on March 1 when she broke loose. Maddie began looking in one direction for the dog, while Brendan headed in the opposite direction along their road. Maddie found one couple out for a walk, and asked if they’d seen the frightened puppy.

“They hadn’t seen her but they ended up cutting their walk short, getting their car, and looking for her,” she said. About an hour later, Maddie said, another neighbor knocked on the front door of the Pratt home.

“She said she heard growling coming from a culvert, so my husband went back out in that direction,” said Maddie, who was indoors with the couple’s son then.

“I was doing what I could to make sure he stayed calm. I didn’t want him to get scared,” she said.

Brendan went to a storm drain on the corner of Head O’Meadow and Shepard Hill roads and heard his puppy, according to Maddie.

“He pulled the grate up and climbed down into the hole,” she said. “Once he heard her, that kicked everything off.”

Neighbors put on some waders, said Maddie, “and started talking to her and placating her. But she wouldn’t budge. She was so scared.”

First Responders Arrive

Newtown Animal Control Officer Emily Whittaker was dispatched at 6 pm through Newtown Emergency Communications Center. When she arrived on Head O’Meadow Road, “the owner was standing in the storm drain, and he told me he could not see her. He could hear her barking, and a neighbor could hear her barking and growling, but they couldn’t see her.”

Whittaker went up Shepard Hill Road, and found a small culvert over 100 feet southwest of the storm drain. Due to a slight curve in the pipe between the opening of the culvert on Shepard Hill Road and the storm drain on Head O’Meadow Road meant Mabel was only seen from the southern opening of the pipe. Shining a flashlight in from the Shepard Hill Road opening, Whittaker was able to see Mabel.

“She was stuck in there, and she just seemed confused and a little scared,” she said. “We tried calling her a lot, and then figured her leash was wrapped around her leg and she couldn’t move. I knew there was nothing more I could do on my own.”

That’s when Whittaker asked for local firefighters to be added to the call, and Newtown Hook & Ladder Company was dispatched. Firefighters were on scene within 10 minutes, “and they really saved the day,” Whittaker said.

Hook & Ladder Chief Ray Corbo took command of the scene upon arrival.

“She’d been in there for about an hour by then, and she was a good 50 feet into the pipe,” Corbo said of Mabel.

Friday’s rain was still draining into the pipe, which added to the original concern of the puppy being in there.

“The dog was blocking the water, so now the pipe was filling with water while we were there,” Corbo said. Firefighters began damming the Shepard Hill Road side of the pipe.

“We were concerned the dog was going to drown,” he admitted. “We got the water stopped for the most part. Once we did that, the water drained and we could see the dog.”

Corbo also made the decision to have Public Works send an excavator or backhoe to his location.

“We knew it was going to take a while if we were going to have to get them there and dig up the road, so I called for that early,” he explained.

Sending a firefighter or anyone else into the pipe was never an option. Not only was the pipe very small — no more than 18 inches wide, the fire chief estimates — but confined space is “always a big concern,” according to Corbo.

“Gases build up in drains,” he said. “Firefighters and others have been overwhelmed in those kinds of situations. They can turn deadly fast.”

With time running out firefighters did some brainstorming. Corbo said one of his firefighters suggested charging a line — filling a hose with water, as if it would be used on a fire — and then pushing that through the pipe. Working from the open culvert on Shepard Hill Road, that’s exactly what the first responders did.

“We ended up pushing about 100 feet of hose into the pipe, and as soon as it touched her, she began to move,” Corbo said.

A few nudges later, Mabel was moving toward her owner. She emerged without injury.

“Physically she was fine, but she was definitely very scared,” Whittaker said. “You’re a dog, you have no idea what to make of that whole situation. She was glad to be out.”

Mable’s owner agreed.

“She was shivering, and she was growling, but that’s because she was afraid,” Maddie said. “My husband wrapped her in a sheet, she was wet and cold, and her leash was wrapped around her.

“When she got home though, he dried her off, gave her some love, she took a hot bath and passed out. She had a great night’s sleep.”

The Pratts moved into town less than a year ago. While Friday’s experience was frightening, it also reassured them that they’d made the right choice for their new home.

“Something we’ve really loved about living here is the sense of community and how everyone takes care of each other,” Maddie said. “It really was manifest in that incident.”


Managing Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at shannon@thebee.com.

Mabel, whose owners believe she is about nine months old, broke free from her lead last Friday night and ended up getting herself caught in a storm pipe for nearly two hours. The young mix is a rescue dog from Texas who was adopted in October by Maddie and Brendan Pratt. —Bee Photo, Hicks
In the foreground is the storm drain Brendan Pratt went into to rescue Mabel after she broke free and ran away from him on March 1. The 28” orange cone in the background marks the location of the culvert, approximately 100 feet away, the dog went into. —Bee Photo, Hicks
Hook & Ladder firefighters fed nearly 100 feet of hose into this small culvert along Shepard Hill Road to gently nudge Mabel out of the pipe. She emerged from a storm drain at the base of the stop sign in the background. —Bee Photo, Hicks
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