Last Friday, Blue, a 14-year-old kelpie, wandered away from his home near Mongarlowe. Owner Sandra Von Sneidern walked the property calling for him, but it wasn’t until she heard a faint bark that she realised what had happened. Blue had fallen five metres down a mine shaft.
Not knowing whether or not the dog was injured, Ms Von Sneidern phoned 000 and was relieved when she saw “the huge truck, blinking blue, red and all lights blazing coming down our bush track to rescue Blue”.
In fading daylight, the crew set up their equipment to winch one of them down the hole. Phil McGrath went halfway down the shaft, couldn’t see or hear Blue, but saw a tunnel leading off the main shaft and realised the dog must be further along that. The local RFS crew also attended, but with night falling and concerns about gas in the mine and lack of oxygen, the search was called off for the night.
Knowing that Blue was down the mine, however, the fire captain suggested that some dog food be thrown down the hole to see if Blue would find his way back to the shaft where he fell. Sure enough, not long after some food was thrown in, they could hear Blue snuffling along the tunnel.
Knowing he was alive, but not knowing whether or how badly he was injured, the fire crew returned the next morning. Craig Coe was slowly winched down the shaft reaching the bottom and could see down the sloping tunnel. There, about four metres along the tunnel, was Blue, apparently fine and pleased to see him.
While the knowledge that Blue was alive and well was a huge relief, it meant that the rescue had to be reorganised as they could not risk the sides giving way with the rope cutting in. Coe was pulled up and they arranged the rope to be centred over the hole instead.
A long strong ladder was then secured across the top from which the pulley was suspended. Coe descended again and crawled along the tunnel towards Blue.
Blue, who weighs 26 kilos, was weak and stuck, and it required a huge effort to pull him out, wrap him up and hold him securely while being winched to the top. At the top of the shaft, a strap was passed around the dog’s rump for support so the other members of the crew could grab the legs to haul Blue the rest of the way up.
After being vet-checked, Blue is now home and recovering. Ms Von Sneidern says the mine shaft will be fenced off, and she and Blue will “grow old together”.