By Sarah Carey
This dog is no ordinary Joe.
Several days after his dramatic rescue from the bottom of a 50-foot hole, through which the 3-year-old English Springer Spaniel had fallen during a recreational outing with his owners at a park near Jonesville, Joe appears to have suffered only a few torn ligaments and some bruising.
“He’s very sore, but he’s a trooper,” said Carmen Cowart, who owns Joe with her partner, Kristi Linnes. They’ve had the dog, which Cowart describes as their “child,” since he was a puppy, but she can’t even think about what might have happened had it not been for the the unexpected help they received from the University of Florida Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service and other agencies who responded to the scene following a 911 call placed around 6:30 p.m. on March 18.
“It’s a miracle he did as well as he did after such an ordeal,” Cowart said. “We can’t figure it out.”
The evening unfolded as many do for the couple, as an opportunity to walk along some asphalt trails at a familiar park with their beloved pet beside them, searching for tennis balls. All of a sudden, Joe seemed to take a hop up, then disappeared from view.
“Somehow I saw the hole, but Joe never made a cry,” Cowart said. She got on her belly and leaned over, and in the fading light through the deep opening, could see the light of Joe’s eyes.
“I just started screaming,” Cowart said, adding that finally some other women arrived on the trail and someone called 911. It seemed like forever, but finally the Alachua County Fire Rescue service arrived, she said, adding that one of the fire/rescue chiefs knew about the UF VETS team and contacted college director John Haven to ask if the group might be able to assist.
“Someone had a ladder, someone had a rope, but boy, when the VETS team came, they had their act together and they had everything, including the headlights, the helmets and all the equipment,” Cowart said. “They thought of everything.”
She said the group of respondents was “calm and cool,” knew what to do and treated the situation with ulmost respect and seriousness. Dr. Roger Clemmons, a longtime member of the VETS team, insisted on going down himself for the dog. He even brought along some chicken nugget treats, Cowart said.
“I’m just so glad no one ever gave up,” she said.
“They knew what a big deal it was, that it was my baby down there,” she said.
The entire ordeal took around four hours, Cowart said. The VETS team pulled Joe out of the hole using a special sling designed for canines. Other agencies on the scene included the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Alachua County Animal Control and state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Joe is happily reunited with his owners after being pulled up from a hole by Dr. Roger Clemmons and the UF VETS team.
Members of the VETS team who were on the scene in addition to Haven and Clemmons included Joshua Fleming and his wife, Cassie Fleming; David John, Katherine Pennenga and Alanna Haven.
After Joe had been brought to the surface, VETS members urged the dog’s owners to quickly take him to the UF Small Animal Hospital Emergency Service for further evaluation.
“There was nothing this group didn’t do,” Cowart said. “They contacted the Emergency Room and when we got there, they were waiting for us. The door opened and out they came with a gurney. For me to have had to go somewhere and explain my story at 10:30 p.m. after all that had happened, would have just been too much.”