Jeff Bohnert had all but given up on seeing his poodle-hound mix again after she went missing in early June. Two months later, he got a text from a neighbour: people exploring a nearby cave found a dog — could it be Abby?
Mr Bohnert doubted it, but still curious, he went to the cave site near his rural Missouri home. That’s when he saw the picture one of the rescuers had taken.
“I said, ‘that’s my dog,’” Mr Bohnert said.
Making Abby’s tale even more amazing is that she is weeks shy of turning 14. Yet somehow, she managed to survive nearly 60 days on her own, apparently much or all of it in a barren, pitch-dark, 14°C cave.
Abby and Mr Bohnert’s other dog, Summer, do everything together, including misbehave.
On June 9, the pair ran away from home, Mr Bohnert said. It had happened before, and in the rural area near Perryville in eastern Missouri, it was generally no big deal, as she always came home.
When Mr Bohnert awoke the next morning, Summer was back home but Abby was not.
“They never separate,” he said. “I figured something bad had happened. I mean, she’s old. She could just get overcome by the heat.”
Mr Bohnert posted about his missing dog on Facebook, reached out to neighbours and contacted police, but no one had seen Abby.
Last week, Gerry Keene and five other adults, along with five children, entered the Berome Moore Cave, planning a day of exploring. One of the children ran ahead of the group and yelled back: “There’s a dog in here.”
“She was just lying there curled up in a ball,” Mr Keene recalled. “She lifted her head and looked at us but she didn’t respond to verbal commands. She looked like she was pretty close to being done.”
Mr Keene enlisted the help of another caver who happened to be there, Rick Haley. They knew Abby couldn’t make the long walk back to the entrance, especially as it was through tight passageways and up a steep incline.
“It was critical that we not give her any rough handling,” Mr Haley said. In the rocky areas through small passageways, “we would carry her short distance, set her down, then kind of move in front of her, reach back, pick her up and put her in front of us”.
Soon after initially finding Abby, Mr Keene briefly went to a few homes nearby to see if anyone was missing a dog. One neighbour reached out to Mr Bohnert, who lives close enough to the cave site that he can see it from his home.
Mr Bohnert figures Abby ended up in the cave after falling into a sinkhole or a hidden entrance. It is speculated that she hunkered down and was able to essentially live off her own body fat.
“I think she was just in a preservation mode,” Mr Bohnert said.
Abby normally weighs about 23 kilograms, Mr Bohnert said, but he guessed she lost half her body weight in the cave. Since her rescue, she has regained weight and started to get back the voice she likely lost barking for help
She’s also wagging her tail again, showing she’s putting the trauma behind her.
“It’s amazing how she’s springing back already,” Mr Bohnert said. “She’s acting like herself again.”