Oskar the cross-eyed rescue dog is enjoying life to the full again following 48 hours in a rabbit hole and an epic island effort to rescue him.
Oskar – Jack Russell and dachshund appear to be in his DNA but exact genetics are unknown – was adopted from Macedonia 18 months ago by veterinary nurse Katy Orton via her charity, Blind Dog Rescue UK.
Last Tuesday, at the end of an hour long walk on Longis Common, and just as it was getting dark, Oskar didn’t come back.
When hours of calling and searching failed to find him, Katy began to fear the worst for her loving, lively little dog.
‘Our three other dogs Rain, Rudi and Gypsy, were digging around looking for rabbits but Oskar had just disappeared. Sometimes you can’t see him but it’s because he is in the mouth of a big hole. But then he would hop up and come running over. He’s a noisy dog and likes to bark. I couldn’t hear anything.’
She and her partner Buster MacFarlane immediately set about scouring places they had been, even digging into some of the larger rabbit holes in case he had got trapped inside. But when darkness fell there still no sign of Oskar.
At 11pm, frantic with worry, Katy had to take the other dogs home. Buster slept in the van on the Common. Katy put out an appeal on Facebook for residents to keep an eye out for the missing Oskar.
By 5am the next day she was back on Longis Common with their other three dogs to continue the search.
But this time they weren’t alone.
As word got out more and more people came down and offered to search different areas, scouring the Common. Everyone wanted to do their bit to find Oskar.
Sean Maloy from the States of Alderney Water Board turned up. He had brought a sensitive sound probe, usually used to detect water leaks. It would prove vital to the search.
‘We put that down holes to listen for whimpering or digging. Sean took a day of holiday from work so he could spend a whole day listening at every rabbit hole for any sound that might indicate a dog was down there. As the day went on so many amazing people, with and without dogs turned out to look for Oskar. Just knowing they were helping us was a comfort.’
But the weather was against them. Pouring rain prevented further use of the sound probe. As evening fell, Katie felt despair creep in.
‘Despite having such an overwhelming response from people, we had no idea where he could be and I began to fear the worst. The last thing we did that night was wait by every rabbit hole with dog food in the hope it would lead him to the surface. Oskar is a tenacious terrier but I felt sure if he could get out, he would have come out by now. We were worried sick. My worst fear was that a tunnel had collapsed on him and he had died shortly after going missing. Buster again slept in the van at Longis while I took the other dogs home. Another awful night passed.’
But they didn’t give up. By 5am they were back on the Common, this time with a strategy.
‘We set up a system to mark the holes we had sound tested with stakes so we knew which holes we needed to keep checking. There were around 70 holes in the area on the night Oskar went missing.’
When residents Kathy and John Saunders turned up at 2pm with their two labradors, they had another idea.
‘I asked them to see if their dogs would sniff a coat belonging to Oskar before they started searching. Their oldest Lab Tikka was never ordinarily interested in rabbit holes. But after sniffing the coat she immediately trotted off to inspect a series of holes.
‘Mark Harding had come back to help search, having spent all of the previous day helping. He had managed to borrow a second probe from the Water Board and used it to explore the hole Tikka seemed interested in. Then he called us over. With both probes down the down the hole, we listened intently. We heard scuffling noises. I called out Oskar’s name and the noises increased. That’s when I started to really believe that he might be okay.’
Carefully they excavated a trench in front of the holes then started to dig backwards into the bank to uncover the warren inside it. .
After 20 minutes of digging they started to hear scrabbling noises. Then a furry face appeared though the soil.
‘The relief was overwhelming. He didn’t seem like a dog who had been stuck underground for 42 hours. He was hungry and desperate to go to the toilet but apart from having very sore eyes because of the sand, Oskar was totally unscathed.
‘What we think happened was that he had gone deep into the burrow, then that may have collapsed behind him, which meant we couldn’t hear him. Over the course of 48 hours he seemed to have figured out a way to bring him closer to the surface, either through existing tunnels or just burrowing up himself, and that’s when we were able to hear him.’
They found him just in time. The weather closed in almost immediately afterwards meaning they would have been unable to use the probes again until 24 hours later.
Oscar was taken home and spoiled by his two-legged and four-legged family.
‘What he really wanted to do was play with the other dogs he but soon realised he was really tired and then just wanted to be stroked and cuddled. He has since completely recovered.
So all in all, a happy dog with a happy tail. And that, says Katy, is thanks to an incredible community that rallied round.
‘I really want to say a huge thank you. We may not have got him back without the help that people offered and it meant so much. So many people were out in all weather searching and it helped knowing that everyone was rooting for Oskar.
‘Special thanks go to Mark Harding, Sean Maloy, Ceri and Buster MacFarlane, Tikka and her owners John and Kathy Saunders. Without them we may not have ever found him in time.
‘Oskar will be on the lead for now but will be wearing a radio tracker in future just in case!’