A Dog Was Trapped in a Cave for 30 Hours. It Took 8 Cavers to Find Him.

Buzzman the dog hadn't returned home for a few hours. Thinking it was unusual, his owner tracked his collar and saw that he was in a cave.

dog with his rescuersCourtesy Laura Demarest
BuzzMan the dog is a tenacious hunter. Lucky for him, so were his rescuers.

Mike White wasn’t too concerned when his five-year-old coonhound, BuzzMan, hadn’t returned following a sanctioned raccoon hunt in Campbellsburg, Indiana, last February. Still, it had been a few hours, so using his cell phone, White followed the pinging from the GPS on the dog’s collar to a narrow cave entrance just large enough for a raccoon and, judging by the fresh dog prints, BuzzMan too. Now White was concerned.

Hunt organizer Logan Ray called in two spelunkers for help—Indiana Conservation Officer Neal Brewington and National Cave Rescue Commission coordinator Anmar Mirza. They arrived a few hours later and set about enlarging the entranceway by hand. Then, at 1:30 a.m. that Sunday, ten hours after BuzzMan went missing, the rescuers squeezed through.

The passageway was just three feet high, forcing the two men to slowly belly crawl, the only light coming from headlamps attached to their helmets. They stopped when they hit a tight crawl space about 100 feet in. Mirza, at five foot six and 230 pounds, is a stout man. No way would he fit through that hole. By then, it was 3:30 a.m. The men retreated back to the outside world.

When BuzzMan hadn’t emerged by Sunday afternoon, smaller volunteers who might fit through that narrow gap were called in. At 5:00 p.m., with other volunteers watching and ready to lend a hand, four new cavers, two men and two women, wriggled through the entrance. Foremost on their minds was the fact that this type of cave floods. “If it rains,” Mirza says, “that cave will kill people.” That night’s forecast: rain.

The cavers made their way to the tight space that had stymied Mirza and shimmied their way through. On the other side was a passage with a stream. The four split up, the women crawling and swimming upstream, the men downstream. “In caving, we call it a bathtub,” says Mirza. “Basically, you’re lying down in water and you’re going to get completely wet.”

After an hour or so, the women reached an impasse and could go no farther. They were cold and wet, and the threat of hypothermia was real. The men faced similar issues. Still, one of them, Kevin Romanak, decided to push a bit farther before calling it quits.

He crawled 30 feet more, and the passage gave way to a large room. He scanned the floor with his headlamp and then up the 15-foot-high walls. And there was BuzzMan, standing on a narrow ledge, nervously staring back at the stranger. Romanak gently attached a leash to his collar, helping him off the ledge. He strapped an extra light on the dog, and, just like that, the coonhound took off toward the entrance 600 feet away, Romanak clinging to the leash.

At 9:30 p.m.—30 hours after being led astray by a raccoon—BuzzMan shot out of the cave, making a beeline for Mike White and slathering him in wet kisses. He was cold and hungry, but otherwise OK. His rescuers brought up the rear, emerging safely.

In total, eight cavers answered the plea to search for BuzzMan. “It’s great to have someone do that on a volunteer basis,” Logan Ray, the hunt’s leader, wrote on Facebook.

Mirza laughs off the praise. After all, going into dark, dank, tight spaces is their hobby. “What we consider fun,” he says, “often gives most people nightmares.”

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Andy Simmons
Andy Simmons is a features editor at Reader's Digest.