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Date of Issue: March 22, 2007

Rescue team frees dog from drain pipe

dog rescue pic
Holmes Beach resident Rebecca Brodeur embraces her dog, Moka, after West Manatee Fire Rescue firefighter Greg Wigeri Van Edema freed the dachshund from a storm drain March 19. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Moka the Dachshund found herself in a tight spot Monday morning, trapped in a drainage pipe under 69th Street in Holmes Beach.

The response to Moka’s cries for help proved that the days of public servants rescuing pets from predicaments are not gone and relegated to Pleasantville memories.

For hours on the Monday morning, a team of neighbors and civic employees slaved at freeing the chocolate-brown miniature dachshund from the pipe.

The 19-year-old dog apparently ventured outdoors late March 18 for a bathroom break. Moka’s routine is to stay close to her home. She’s partially deaf and blind and her hind legs don’t work too well so she doesn’t wander off.

At least, she hadn’t wandered off in the past.

But on Sunday night, Moka didn’t return home.

And her human companion, Rebecca Brodeur, didn’t sleep.

“I just couldn’t find her,” Brodeur said. “She’s 19. She’s blind. She can hardly hear. I was just so worried. Moka likes comfort, she just likes to be comfortable.”

Brodeur spent the night searching. She didn’t know Moka spent the night so close to home — in a drainage pipe, curled into a ball, cold and afraid and stuck. The dog couldn’t move backward because of her bad back legs. She couldn’t move forward because of the mucky build-up in the pipe.

Monday morning neighbors helped Brodeur find Moka in the pipe. When they leaned down and peered in, they could see Moka’s eyes shining in the darkness. She was out of arms’ reach by about five feet.

Brodeur and her neighbors called to Moka. They offered her snacks. But the dog wouldn’t — or couldn’t — budge and the professionals were called.

An engine with West Manatee Fire Rescue personnel soon arrived, followed by a crew from the Holmes Beach public works department, then two Manatee County Animal Services officers, Holmes Beach police officers and, finally, representatives of LaPensee Plumbing of Holmes Beach.

“All this for my dog,” Brodeur said with awe.

“Just keep talking to her,” WMFR Lt. John Tynski suggested to Brodeur as the rescue team worked. “Say ‘Moka, Moka, Moka’ because this is going to scare the hell out of her.”

Rescue workers quickly determined that Moka couldn’t be pulled from the pipe using rope and she couldn’t be prodded from the pipe using a pole.

“Anybody got any ideas?” Tynski asked the growing crowd.

Soon rescue workers — the professionals and the neighbors — began to drag the dirt and sediment from the pipe using rakes, hoes, even a shuffleboard stick attached to plastic piping.

“She’s moving,” firefighter Greg Roan shouted, hopeful as he stared into the pipe, which measured about 8-inches high, about 12-inches wide and formed only a half circle.

Roan dug with a hoe while Island visitor Paul Carr removed dirt with a shovel and neighbor Jeff Kenrick steadied the tool.

But the build-up in the pipe proved too great and eventually rescue workers reached a consensus — they would have to cut into 69th Street, pull off the asphalt layers and break into the concrete pipe to free Moka.

WMFR offered to take responsibility for the work, but city officials sanctioned the project and, with Brodeur standing by, public works, LaPensee and WMFR personnel took turns breaking up the road.

First, a saw was used to cut through the asphalt.

Then one of LaPensee’s backhoes was used to dig out the dirt on top of the pipe.

After reaching the pipe, firefighter Greg Wigeri Van Edema climbed into the hole and started swinging a sledgehammer, breaking away the concrete. He then started to dig.

“Well, hi there,” the firefighter said softly as he looked into the pipe at about 11:30 a.m., several hours after the all-out rescue effort began.

He reached in and gently pulled.

When he turned to face Brodeur, he held out her dog. Brodeur reached for Moka, hugged her, kissed her and then held her out for the crowd of about 40 to cheer. Several onlookers cried.

“Thank you so much,” Brodeur said, her voice trembling with excitement. “I owe you. Moka says, ‘Thank you.’”

As the tools used to free Moka were gathered and put away, neighbors gathered around to pet and kiss the dog.

Wigeri Van Edema smiled and wiped his grimy hands on his grimy shorts.

“It feels great,” he said. “It’s nice to have her out. And the neighborhood was great here, helped out a lot.”