Community Unites to Rescue a Deaf Dog Trapped in a Sewer

By: Mia Williams | Published: Nov 15, 2021

The comfortable and relaxed suburban life drew many families to Arlington, Texas, where quaint townhouse windows open up to a calming view of cute gardens and vast green spaces with shade trees and a neighborhood park. However, on this particular day, on one particular street in Arlington, people were not gathering for the beautiful, leafy views.

The growing throng of people whispered and spread the story of what was going on. Meanwhile, firefighters fussed around a drain on the edge of the road, arranging their equipment and getting their plan of attack in order. For quite a time, they had been scouring the area, hunting for a mysterious bark that seemed to be coming from nowhere. Finally, they tracked it down to the depths of a storm drain where a poor lost pup was crying out for help. 

Tracking Zoey Down

The fifteen-year-old dog’s barks were muffled by heavy concrete and several feet of earth. Her pleas for help escaped through the drains, rising above the structure and reaching out into the atmosphere like gasps. Of course, no one in the neighborhood knew yet that a dog was down beneath their feet.

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Zoey could have been anywhere, they thought. Was she locked behind a tall fence or stuck in someone’s backyard? The dog’s voice could be heard in many places, and they kept calling back even though they knew this beloved neighborhood dog was deaf.

Time Was Running Out

Zoey had been missing for forty-eight hours, so they knew the window of opportunity to find her alive was closing in on them. They searched around narrow alleys, in backyards, and in all corners of the neighborhood. Some crawled to listen to the echoes in pipes and water tanks, like confidantes of the dark underworld.

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This was highly unusual behavior for Zoey, who liked to stay close to her family. Being deaf, she didn’t like to wander far from home. Instead, she tended to hang about where the scent of those she trusted was in the air.

No One Could Find Zoey

Like most cats and dogs, Zoey engaged in a few mischievous escapades when she was much younger. All animals have a curiosity that compels them to take a few steps outside the property before they eventually cross the road and then run away to see what lies beyond the bounds of safety.

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But Zoey was 15 years old – the equivalent of being in her 80s if she were human. She was deaf and physically fragile. Her days of roaming around uncharted areas full of strangers were long gone. 

No One Had Seen Her for Two Days

Had Zoey escaped from her home and crossed the park? If so, chances are someone would have seen her at some point. But nobody in the area had reported having found a dog. So, Zoey’s owners reported her missing.

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Around a third of dogs and cats in America are reported lost at some point in their lives, and at this point, Zoey added her name to that unfortunate tally. The good news was that they could still hear her – they just couldn’t figure out where she was.

Within the Proximity

How on Earth was Zoey able to get lost in such a small community when everyone could still hear that she was around? The main thing for the rescuers at this point was that she was undoubtedly close to them. Her cries were still audible, but for how long?

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They knew she would be getting exhausted, and they worried that if she fell silent, they would lose her for good. There was no time to be wasted on such “what ifs.” Members of the community poured in, with some helping firefighters look inside manholes.

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They Finally Find Zoey’s Location

The efforts of the rescuers intensified with the help of those who lived close by, along with the dog’s owner and friends. They looked for her in every nook and cranny, zeroing in on the source of her barking.

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Finally, they found themselves huddled around the spot where the barking was loudest, seriously contemplating her chances of survival. Zoey was trapped below the earth, cramped inside a drain pipe. They quickly devised a plan for getting her out of there. 

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Digging Her Out

They were happy to find her spot, but this didn’t mean things would get easier. In fact, discovering that the poor old dog was ensnared deep below slabs of concrete was a major setback. It was going to take hours of work to get to her.

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Heavy equipment was called in to break the surface of the road and start digging down further. They had to be 100% sure this was the spot to operate on – you can’t just dig up an entire road for no reason.

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Community Effort

They thought of alternative ways to get to the wailing dog, whose tail must have been wagging fervently after having sensed their presence above her. Zoey barked louder, with more enthusiasm, and for good reason. Help was finally coming her way.

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The group of rescuers decided the only way to bring her back up was to dig down. They weighed up the damage this would entail. More people showed up to cheer them on, showing their full support. They were all on Zoey’s side, so there was no backing out of the rescue, no matter how much damage it would cause to the road.

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Help from Unexpected Places

As the firefighters pierced the pavement, first with concrete saw blades, later on with drills and an excavator, concerned neighbors looked on around them. Once in a while, in the collective, a person would check his watch, anxious about the time it would take to get things done.

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This child decided to approach one of the rescuers with his skateboard. He offered his protective gear to them, thinking this could help them ease Zoey out of the pipe. This sweet gesture is no different from a child offering his piggy bank in a financially dire situation. The whole community truly wanted to help.

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A Heartwarming Act

The rescue team worked tirelessly to get the job done. It was getting dark, but the enthusiasm of the supportive crowd inspired them. The child who gave them his skateboard and offered to help warmed their hearts.

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Each time they felt exhaustion creeping in, they would feel the crowd’s passion and enthusiasm and allow it to renew their vigor. They were all bound together for a noble cause. Police officer Kristi Weil knew she was seeing something meaningful unraveling before her eyes. 

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A Coalition of First Responders

During the long waiting hours, alone in the dark, it’s not hard to imagine Zoey feeling ostracized from society and finding no justice in that. This led her to bark and claw against the walls for survival until she began to give up, fearing that she had been forgotten.

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In reality, she was far from being abandoned. If only she knew that a combination of emergency responders were all doing what they could to reach her. There were firefighters, paramedics, the police, her masters, and their friends.

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Strategic Calculations

As the rescue team continued to drill into the solid pavement, different strategic plans continued to be studied by various first responders. Ironically, none of them had ever experienced rescuing a pet on a similar scale. They had to be careful and make sure the steps they took were properly calculated. 

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They attempted a variety of approaches but eventually backed off, deciding that these angles were unfeasible. It was risky, and they did not want all their efforts to go in vain. They were also time-pressured as the dog had already been trapped for days.

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A Real-Time Inspection of Zoey

There was the possibility of causing infrastructure damage that could eventually hurt their objective if things weren’t done with proper care. So much was involved, and engineers had to be consulted on the fly. It was a more precarious situation than most of them had anticipated.

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Thanks to their various specializations, someone suggested that they insert a minute camera inside the pipe to get more valuable data. That way, they would know they were performing the right steps. This brilliant idea also gave them the chance to check on Zoey’s condition.

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Confirmation That Zoey Was Alive

The crew inserted an endoscopic camera into the storm drain and carefully explored the subterranean pipes with the help of a pre-installed miniature flashlight. The camera snaked around the curvatures of the pipe, feeding images to a square monitor that held the attention of everyone up on the surface.

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They finally saw Zoey and confirmed she was alive. If only they could give her a message of assurance. But time was running out. What if it rained? She would drown down there if they didn’t get her out in time.

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Using Heavy Equipment

Having gathered sufficient data and measurements that revealed Zoey’s exact location, they were able to be more precise in their planning. This was all thanks to modern technology that gave them eyes below the ground. This would have been impossible had this accident happened decades ago.

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Heavy equipment was called in to crush the solid barrier. Although deaf, Zoey must have felt the excavator’s heavy blows above her. Everyone knew the poor pup would be terrified, but the only thing her well-wishers could do was watch and pray for her safety.

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On the Double

The case of the missing dog had captivated the neighborhood. However, no one suspected that the story would end with a road being torn up by heavy machinery. Now that the exact spot was being worked on, their next fear was centered on failing to get there in time to save Zoey.

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The thick concrete was not easy to break through, and they would have to go further below once that layer had been dug up. They looked to the sky and nervously prayed that the rain would stay away.

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Going All Out to Save Zoey

Zoey was so close that they could hear her whimpering, yet so far out of reach. Inspired by the child’s offering of his skateboard, everybody else brainstormed and thought of ways to help, of things they could offer that might alleviate the challenge of getting through to save the old dog.

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The community went all out to save Zoey. It was a collective effort, physically and spiritually. They utilized every possible resource that was available to them, and as every moment passed, their hearts beat for the deaf dog.

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A Sweet Rescue Dog

Their hearts sang in unison for Zoey, who was a rescue dog taken in by her owners Brennan and Andrea after they met her in a shelter in Oklahoma. They were newlyweds when they adopted her, fifteen years ago. Zoey was their first baby girl.

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The couple now has three children of their own. They all watched with concern and furrowed brows as the firefighters scrambled to save the mid-size labrador mix they grew up with and love so much.

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How She Got Out

Brennan and Andrea’s eyes welled up as they recounted how Zoey may have gotten out of their property unnoticed. The back gate’s latch had not been tightly fitted when their dogs were playing around the backyard on a Thursday night.

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A quick review from their Ring camera revealed the pair returning to the lot and going out again. Andrea, their other dog, was safe. However, black-haired Zoey was not around when they came home, prompting all sorts of awful thoughts to assault their frantic minds.

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Troubled By Their Dog’s Absence

The three girls panicked when they found out that Zoey was not around and that the back gate had been left ajar. The family was always overprotective of their deaf dog, especially since she was now fifteen years of age. They understood her vulnerability, so they instantly started thinking the worst.

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They imagined her crossing a street somewhere and getting hit by an automobile. She could be lying out there somewhere, injured and alone, wondering why they weren’t there. This was, of course, before they started to hear her bark ringing through the neighborhood, seemingly from nowhere.

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The Unbearable Thought of Her Dying

Zoey was the couple’s first baby girl – a dog they rescued when they were just married. So, they worried about her physical condition the way parents naturally would when a child is accidentally lost. They could only hope this wasn’t forever, that they would be able to hold her in their arms again.

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They fought wicked thoughts of a possible violent death, which became increasingly uncontrollable in their fraught silence. The couple relied on each other for hope and emotional strength, inviting positive thoughts of Zoey somehow being all right wherever she was.

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Helpless and Heartbroken

Brennan and Andrea felt helpless all this time, not knowing what to do or how to appease their young daughters, who felt like they’d lost a sister. They held onto each other to focus on positive thoughts. While waiting for updates on the case, they thought of how much Zoey meant to them all these years.

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Little did they know that her disappearance would unite their small community. The family was surprised by how many people came over to offer help in various forms. 

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Finding the Pipe Where Zoey Was Stuck

Nighttime finally came, blanketing the excavation site with darkness. Some of the crew were instructed to install portable lighting around the site and on the heavy equipment. After hours of pounding the concrete, they finally spotted the storm drain pipe where Zoey was stuck.

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The yellow glare of the lights on the earth gave the impression that they had struck gold on a treasure site, but the real treasure could be lost anytime now. Zoey was tired and hungry. Nobody knew how much longer she could take it down there. 

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Another Obstacle

News that they had finally found the pipe was celebrated among the group of well-wishers. However, this discovery also presented the next obstacle they had to surmount before the poor old dog could finally be saved.

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It was impossible to tell if her fall had caused her any injuries, but it was a high likelihood because of her age. That, coupled with the lack of oxygen and the heat down there, could cause her lungs to collapse. Zoey had also been deprived of proper nutrition for so long.

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Help Came in Many Forms

By the time the crew found and attempted to access the pipe, it was already getting late in the evening, so there was no time to pause for a break. Friends of the couple came forward to talk a little to cheer them up. Everyone was hopeful now as they watched the firefighters carefully work on accessing the pipe.

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People donated pizza and other forms of nourishment to keep the rescuers going. New batches of refreshments kept coming, and neighbors continually came over to ask if anything was needed. Everyone wanted to know if there was something they could do to help.

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Cutting the Heavy-Duty Steel

The rescue team dug up the surrounding mud until the tubular steel revealed itself like an old, buried rocket. They cut the thick heavy-duty steel with metal cutters, a reciprocating saw, and tough grinders, forging on into the night, unwilling to accept defeat.

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It took another hour or so before a slit was faintly noticed on the browned surface of the carbon steel. They worked harder on this small opening, if only so a ray of light and a whiff of fresh air might reach and caress Zoey’s face.

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Lifting the Cover

The steel pipe was at least a few inches thick, well-designed to handle strong water pressure if floods arose during a major downpour. However, with unwavering determination, the technical crew managed to cut through a sufficient portion of the pipe. The time had come to get the dog out of its accidental prison.

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They needed an excavator to take over and hoist open the cut-out layer of metal as it was too heavy for them to pick up by hand. They stepped back and watched the machine do its job.

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Drum Roll Moment

For roughly twelve hours, a coalition of various first responders had come together, shared ideas, and toiled to save the life of an old dog trapped in the dark. They endured all sorts of challenges to get to this point, using some resources for the first time and learning from the situation as it unfolded. 

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It all came down to this drum roll moment when the excavator lifted away the top of the pipe, removing the final barrier to Zoey’s safety and freedom.

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Another Disappointment

The thick metal layer was hoisted up, revealing, as the spotlights shone brightly on the excavated site, a tubular cavity. There was nothing there to see at the spot they had been working on all day. It was as if Zoey, whose cries they had heard all day, had vanished into thin air.

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A careful examination left them with the awful conclusion that their measurements had been inaccurate. They had broken through in the wrong spot. The dog was trapped a little deeper inside.

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Calculated Risk

The rescue team had never worked on a case like this before, and they had surmounted many challenges to get to the final phase. They didn’t want to make any more mistakes, so they took the time to analyze, calculating the risks this final move entailed.

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They measured the diameter of the pipe to see if it was possible to send a person in, perhaps a smaller guy who could sneak in with minimal snags. They also had to consider Zoey’s physical and emotional state.

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The Final Stretch 

A brainstorming session involving the different responder groups led to the decision that someone would have to go into the pipe. They had come this far – they couldn’t give up after having missed the target by a few feet. Whether Zoey would be willing to come out with a stranger, nobody knew.

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The long and narrow pipe was partially lit by construction lamps, but this did not illuminate the spot where the dog was trapped. This was going to be a claustrophobic trip into a practically unknown space.

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Going in on All Fours

A brave rescuer came forward and volunteered to go on all fours through the storm drain – a narrow vein in a system of subterranean structures – and bring Zoey out. To get there, one would have to slide in and out of the muck, and who knows what creatures could be lurking inside.

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As luck would have it, the skateboard offered by the child earlier in the day came in handy. Lying on his belly, careful not to scrape his elbows and knees, the rescuer crept into the darkness of the storm pipe. 

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Not Wide Enough

The diameter of the pipe wasn’t wide enough to accommodate both the volunteer and the dog if they were bundled together on their way back. Zoey may be too frightened to come out on her own, unwilling to go along with an unfamiliar face, looking bizarre with a helmet, a mask, and other devices attached.

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Again, they tried to call her out even though they knew she was deaf. As expected, there was no response. Was it too late to save Zoey? The spectators gathered around closer, every person subconsciously holding their breath. 

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A Providential Tool

The physical limitations of the pipe made it impossible for a rescuer to grasp the dog and bring her back out. She would have to come out by choice. A short trip toward their objective would entail utmost care and patience, plus a lot of wriggling with a few scrapes against the curved walls.

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The plan was to use the skateboard, hoping that the dog could be towed to safety on it. They were hoping Zoey wouldn’t resist and slide farther back into the darkness. This was a plan worth trying. They knew they had to do something, or it would be too late. 

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The End of the Mission

The smallest rescuer was chosen to go inside and negotiate Zoey’s extraction. It involved a few intense minutes as community members watched on from above in a circle, and co-rescuers below monitored their companion’s progress. They tried to be ready for possible contingencies while silently praying that everything would turn out well. 

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Finally, the rescuer’s boots could be seen coming out of the tube, followed by his slender figure. The crowd was jubilant at the sight of Zoey in tow, seemingly smiling back at them with her graying muzzle. 

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A Positive Turn of Events

Over the two days that the dog had been missing, her owners had imagined the worst. Not only was she a beloved family pet, but she was also old and deaf. She could have been hit by a vehicle or gotten hopelessly lost. Brennan and Andrea could not believe where the experience ended up taking them.

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Zoey was finally safe again, and they could not wait to embrace her. The crowd cheered on, showering the rescue team with applause for a job well done. This had become a communal event.

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Zoey’s Health Condition

The next goal was to determine the old dog’s health condition now that she was back in their shelter and protection. Zoey didn’t behave like she had dislocated or broken a bone when she was lifted up. She looked up but didn’t jolt or shriek when her extremities were held. 

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The medics worked on Zoey, who must have been terribly tired and famished after being lost for two days. Everyone present agreed that it was a heartrending sight. At least she was safe, albeit with bleary eyes. 

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First Aid and Medical Tests

Witnesses to her harrowing experience continued with their prayers. Medics rushed in to check her physical condition, ready with their first aid kits. Will Zoey make it? That was the concern on everyone’s mind now that they had her, safe from external stress for the first time in two days. 

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Her aged body might give in due to lack of oxygen or to an unknown injury from the fall. She also might have developed an illness from the hazards of being trapped underground. They carefully examined her. 

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Laid on a Stretcher

Results from the initial tests seemed okay, but they were still inconclusive. They needed to conduct a more comprehensive examination of her, including more insight into her psychological state. All eyes were on Zoey, who had become something of a celebrity dog overnight. The medics gently placed her frail body on a stretcher.

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They contacted a local vet to see if they could take Zoey to the clinic for an emergency check-up. The vet agreed to perform a detailed examination. Everyone’s prayers shifted – they now hoped with all their hearts that she was out of the woods.

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Handled with Care

When they carried the stretcher inside the ambulance, they wondered if Zoey would react negatively to the enclosed space. She smelled awful, still grimy from the storm drain, but she was handled with the utmost care and affection by the medics.

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In a subsequent interview, some of the workers shared how much they learned from the experience. They said that they’d never carried a dog in an ambulance in an emergency. They feel better prepared for unexpected events after what they went through. 

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Zoey’s Recuperation

The vets who agreed to receive Zoey in an emergency situation were surprised when they saw their patient arrive in an ambulance. The dog lapped up the liquids they served her in a bowl, and they nourished her with food and vitamins. 

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The vets were soon able to confirm with Zoey’s owners that she didn’t suffer any injury from her fall. The couple was delighted to hear the good news, and the doctors were just as glad that the fifteen-year-old dog was responding well to their treatment and starting to liven up.

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No Major Injuries Suffered

Considering the agony of being trapped in the sewer for two days with no food or proper ventilation, the doctors were happy to report that Zoey suffered no life-threatening injuries or resultant illnesses. She was exhausted and sleep-deprived but was otherwise surprisingly healthy.

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It wasn’t long before this old labrador would receive an official clean bill of health, and soon, she would be jumping into the arms of her family, who had been worried sick for days and missing her so badly.

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Welcoming Back Zoey

Zoey sat in the middle of the back seat of the family car when they returned home. Somehow, she knew she had been given this treatment before. A sense of deja vu also struck her owners as they remembered taking her home as their first baby. This time, Zoey was embraced by three other kids while another dog waited for her at home.

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As it turns out, their other dog wasn’t the only one waiting for them when they got home. Neighbors waited to welcome them outside, eager to see Zoey healthy again. There was an outpouring of love for the old dog, who was finally safe and well again.

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A Second Chance

They couldn’t imagine what would have happened had it rained while Zoey was down in the sewer. They were infinitely grateful that those days were dry, and the only flood that swept their home and the community was that of love and a sense of unity.

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Zoey reciprocates this love any chance she gets. Often, when she goes on walks with her owners, neighbors call out to her, gesturing to say hello. Though she doesn’t hear a word they say, she senses the language of the heart.

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