Gabby was shaken and bleeding, but she’s now back home and doing well.
woman holding small shaggy dog that was rescued by using peanut butter
Credit: Courtesy of Georgetown Fire Department

Their hands didn't work. Rope didn't work. Heck, peanut butter didn't even work. But after nearly three hours, Kentucky firefighters—with the help of donated shovels and heavy machinery—were finally able to rescue a scared, deaf dog who'd become trapped in a narrow sewer pipe.

It happened April 14 in Georgetown, Ky., when little dog Gabby wandered out of her yard and fell down an open sewer line cleanout.

"The neighbor actually saw the dog jump into the hole," Jamie Gifford, Georgetown Fire Department's assistant chief of operations, tells Daily Paws. "It if wasn't for that, we wouldn't have even known where the dog was."

Charlene Revel, Gabby's human, called the fire department at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, once she realized Gabby was too far down the vertical pipe for her to reach. Gifford says the fire department initially responded with a crew of nine. He and Chief Eric Colson arrived on the scene later as the rescue increased in complexity.

Gabby, Revel told WLEX, is completely deaf and was probably confused about all of the vibrations happening around her in addition to being stressed and scared by the dark, tight space. That all combined to make her skittish and elusive, even in the tight constraints of the sewer pipe, which Gifford describes as barely any wider than the dog's body.

"Initially, the pipe went down maybe 6 or 7 feet," Gifford says. "[Firefighters] looked down the pipe and they could see her butt. They couldn't really get a hold on her to pull her out because every time they would reach down, she would move further down the pipe. Eventually she made her way down to the vertical pipe and into the wider horizontal pipe."

Once Gabby descended into the horizontal pipe, the fire crew knew they would have to get more creative. Attempts to lure Gabby back into the Y junction of the two pipes with peanut butter failed and the crew couldn't get a rope around her. So they decided to dig.

Neighbors ran back to their houses and returned with shovels for the firefighters, and the crew began cutting the vertical pipe as diggers made their way deeper into the ground. Eventually, a local company, Sunbelt Rentals, donated a small excavator to the cause. 

"One of our guys used that to dig out the hole," Gifford says. "We kind of stepped it back so that the incline down was more gradual."

Eventually, the digging reached the horizontal pipe and the fire crew cut off a section roughly 2 feet downstream of the Y junction. Gabby, however, had somehow managed to turn herself around in the pipe and shimmied even further away.  So the rescuers cut out an additional 1 foot of pipe before Gabby was finally freed around 8:15 p.m., nearly three hours after the initial call came in.

"When we took [Gabby] out of the pipe, [Revel] immediately took her back and held her close," Gifford says.

The poor pooch was covered in mud and sewage and had sustained a nasty cut on her neck, but she was alive and free. The fire department contacted a local veterinarian who met Revel and Gabby at their clinic and gave the dog immediate attention for her injuries. By the next day, a cleaned-up Gabby had returned  home safe.

Revel told WLEX Gabby's previous owner abandoned her in an empty apartment. Now, she's got a whole neighborhood watching out for her.