Lifestyle & Human Interest

'I Wanted to Cry': Firefighter Uses Ingenious Tool to Help Rescue Elderly Dog Trapped in Underground Pipe


Dogs are important parts of many families. That was no different for the Shipman family from West Fargo, North Dakota, whose senior Shetland sheepdog, Bentley, played a very important role in their lives.

Not only is Bentley a beloved pet, he’s an indispensable helper to one family member in particular.

“There’s so many reasons Bentley is important to the family,” mom Gloria Shipman told The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. “One, first and foremost, he is a medical support for my daughter.

“He’s been a godsend for Steph. He is family, on top of everything else that he does.”

But as Bentley was outside on the evening of Saturday, he fell through a storm drain that was missing its cover and vanished.

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After the pup disappeared from sight, the West Fargo Fire Department was called for help.

Firefighters responded to the scene, but they were unable to determine the location of the 13-year-old dog, either — until one of them had a brilliant idea and ran home to grab his ice-fishing camera.

In his distress, the dog had worked his way into another pipe five feet below the ground and was well and truly stuck.

“(I)ts legs fell down butt first and it must’ve got scared, and then Bentley had backed up into, found a T, and backed up (further into the pipe),” West Fargo firefighter Joe Johnson said.

“(W)e put our ears to the, one of the tubes, and you could hear Bentley panting and licking water, so we knew he was okay.”

Pinning down his location was the first step, but now the rescuers had to figure out a way to reach him.

Thankfully, West Fargo Public Works rallied despite it being the weekend, and arrived with a crew and a backhoe, prepared to help rescue the elderly dog.

“We dug probably a trench four feet wide by 20 feet, I’d say, and five feet deep,” West Fargo firefighter Corey Markel explained.

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They carefully cut the pipe, which had very sharp edges, so they could extract Bentley.

“The pipe’s really sharp, and that’s why the — probably seen me on the video with my shirt off,” Johnson said. “I put it over, so the, so the dog … wouldn’t get cut.”

“As it happened, Bentley and I connected visually,” Shipman added. “The helplessness, look on his face, I can’t describe it any way other than him telling me, ‘help me,’ and I — I couldn’t.”

After four hours, the crews were finally able to free the Sheltie. It was an emotional reunion for all, and one firefighter admitted she was in tears.

“I almost started crying,” West Fargo firefighter Andrea Wagemann said. “At the end, I started like petting the dog and he gave me like the puppy kisses, and I just got like teary eyed, (…) I just wanted to cry for that owner.”

“I can’t tell you how that was. I mean, they instantly wrapped him, handed him over to me, and, and the licks from him were just beyond,” Shipman said.

The fire department shared the heartwarming story and video showing the rescue on Facebook, publicly thanking those involved in the unusual rescue.

“The West Fargo Fire Department would like to thank the City of West Fargo — Government’s Public Works and Engineering Departments for their assistance in saving this four-legged resident of West Fargo,” they wrote.

Bentley took a trip to the emergency vet to make sure he was all right, and all that fluff must’ve paid off for him as he was determined to be perfectly fine after his ordeal.

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