A Taylor County family was reunited with a lost dog after Campbellsville Fire-Rescue recently dug it out from underneath the concrete foundation of a nearby barn.
"It was my neighbor's barn," said Samantha Port, the owner of Bella, the dachshund that went missing last week. "He passed away about three or four months ago and his daughters were due to close on the house yesterday. One of them went to grab a few last things before they closed, and her little dog went to the corner of the barn, then started whining and looking at the floor. That's when she called me and said 'I think your dog's under the barn.'"
That could have complicated things, Port said, because Fire-Rescue needed permission from the property's new owners -- whom she had never even met -- before they could drill a hole in the barn's concrete floor and dig out the dirt behind it.
If her neighbor's daughter hadn't been there, Port would have had no way to get in touch with the barn's new owners, or worse, may not have found Bella at all. "So many things had to line up for this to happen; I truly believe that everybody was in the right place at the right time," Port said.
Campbellsville Fire Chief Chris Taylor received a call from the city dispatch center asking if Fire-Rescue could help the Port family's dog.
"I responded out there to evaluate the situation and see if we could be of any assistance," Taylor said. "After the evaluation, we thought we could try a couple of things to help get it out."
"The resources the rescue squad put towards digging out a wiener dog is beyond amazing," Port said. "I mean, the fire truck came out, the backhoe, there were at least seven people there at all times -- there was all this equipment they had to use, and they were all things for over three and a half hours."
Taylor said the team assumed that since the dog had been lost for four days, it had been trapped under the barn for four days and couldn't make it out on its own.
"We needed to jump in and help," said Taylor, who determined the dog had made its way under the barn using a groundhog tunnel but couldn't turn around to get out.
The rescuers used the same tactics they would have used if a person was under the slab.
"We could hear a faint barking, so we narrowed the area down inside the barn and drilled an inspection hole," Taylor said.
They then inserted an inspection camera into the hole to figure out where the "void spaces" were under the slab.
"We decided our best course of action would be to dig out a small portion of the ground underneath the pad and attempt to gain access," Taylor said. "One of our firefighters is an expert backhoe operator and dug out several feet of dirt to gain access before we began shoveling dirt by hand."
Taylor said rescue technicians then used long hand tools to dig beneath the barn into the void space where Bella was stuck to let her crawl out on her own, doing frequent status checks on the concrete slab and dirt above to ensure the structure kept its integrity and the operation remained safe for the rescuers.
Eventually, Bella crawled out on her own and was returned to the Ports uninjured.
"We are in the business of service to the community," Taylor said. "When there is any life, human or animal, that we can help or save we are going to do that.
"This had a happy ending, and all of our personnel enjoy seeing that," he continued, noting that in his line of work, they deal with a lot of injuries and death.
Port said she feels the story of Bella's rescue sends two messages: "Never give up hope, and know that God puts you in the right place at the right time."
Aside from that, though, Bella was her 10-year-old daughter, Adelynn's, dog which she had grown up with since she was 4.
"Words can't express how thankful we were for the amount of determination, compassion and kindness they put into, literally, finding a dog," Port said. "They said that they were there for any living creature, and they really meant it. My worst fear was telling my daughter her dog would never be back."