A “miracle” dog is lucky to be alive after being trapped underground for more than 60 hours.
Winston, a black cocker spaniel, was having a normal day romping in the woods with his human companions, Heather and Alex Peake, when Winston’s excellent sense of smell led him into an animal den and sudden disaster.
This was no ordinary burrow in the woods outside the English village Normanton Le Heath. This was a Badger sett (or den), which can span to 1000ft of tunnels to accommodate multiple Badger families, up to fifteen individual animals in one burrow.
After spending hours calling for Winston after he disappeared into the Badger sett on Saturday, his owners realized they were going to need help with more expertise. But there was still one complication. Badgers are protected and their setts, under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 in England and Wales, cannot be dug up without a permit and before any action is taken a trapped dog must be left… for 48 hours.
“The last few days had been awful,” said Heather Peake. “We felt so helpless knowing Winston was trapped.”
After the legally required time to intercede had passed, the heroes were called in. Firefighters.
With Winston missing underground for 60 hours at this point, Heather and Alex’s hopes weren’t high. But Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service were swift to action deploying two crews to the rescue operation, one from Coalville and a technical rescue team. Using specialist listening and locating devices, they were able to establish the dog’s position and, five hours later, Winston was dug out of the ground alive.
“When the firefighters began searching we really thought we had already lost him and we were mentally preparing ourselves for the worst.” Explained Heather Peake, ”I just burst into more tears when we finally saw his little face poking out of the mud.”
“The fire service did an amazing job carefully digging him out of the tunnel.” Said RSPCA inspector Sue Haywood, ”The moment he was finally rescued was just brilliant – we were all just over the moon and despite his ordeal he was relatively unscathed.”
While firefighters are known for, obviously, fire rescues, the intensive training they receive covers a wide and diverse range of emergencies. Animal rescues by London fire brigade rose 20% in 2020, with London firefighters attending 755 animal rescues across the capital. With that many pets in peril in different situations, it’s not surprising that being a firefighter is more than a red truck and a Dalmatian at the station. And there’s one dog who’s definitely grateful to the dedicated members of firefighting.
Ms. Peake said Winston the three-year-old “miracle” dog was exhausted and in shock, but recovering well after his journey to the center of a Badger den. Hopefully this will be the most exciting event in Winston’s life, but if not, the members of the local Fire Service are ready to swing in.