Dog freed from fox hole after 5-hour ordeal

Animal Rescue Officer Lee Williams from the Scottish SPCA with Shadow. Picture: Contributed
Animal Rescue Officer Lee Williams from the Scottish SPCA with Shadow. Picture: Contributed
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IT started out as a peaceful afternoon for dog walker Nathalie MacKay, as she enjoyed the fresh air and the mild weather on Corstorphine Hill.

Shadow, her 19-month-old cocker spaniel, is fond of sniffing badger setts and burrows, and Mrs MacKay didn’t think much of it when he ventured inside a fox hole.

She could never have imagined then that a quiet Friday afternoon would turn into one of chaos and drama – bringing teams of community volunteers and emergency services to the beauty spot to carry out a five-hour rescue mission.

“Shadow has always had a bit of an interest in bunny holes – but he would normally just walk over to it, put his nose in and then come back again so while he was sniffing I never thought anything of it,” said Mrs MacKay, from Corstorphine.

“The next minute I couldn’t see him, it was as if he had just disappeared.”

Mrs MacKay, 47, was sure Shadow would reappear shortly, so she fiddled around on her mobile phone while she waited.

As she watched the minutes tick by, she decided to contact her husband Graeme, who brought tinned sardines to the scene in a bid to prise their pet out of the burrow.

But when that proved unsuccessful, Nathalie realised her peaceful afternoon was slowly turning into one of stress, and she turned to a community group on Facebook for support – unaware dozens of helpers would soon flock to the scene.

Mrs MacKay said: “Tinned sardines is Shadow’s favourite smelly food, so we thought that might have worked.

“At first I wasn’t too worried because I just thought he was being a bit naughty and that he’d come back out, but as the hours went by, I began to get more concerned.”

She added: “A man who saw my post on Facebook brought his female dog, who was in heat, to the fox hole to see if that would lure Shadow out, but that didn’t work either.”

Getting more flustered, Mrs MacKay decided to call the Scottish SPCA for help, while other dog walkers began gathering to see what had happened.

She said: “As I called the Scottish SPCA, the man who came with his dog phoned his neighbour, who owns a drainage company.

“He asked if he could come up with one of his special cameras to put down to the hole to see if we could see Shadow.”

Shortly before the Scottish SPCA and the Scottish Fire Service arrived to begin their rescue operation, Mrs MacKay and the men spotted two bright eyes through the blurry drainage camera – sparking hope that Shadow was safe.

Mrs MacKay said: “I had to call the ranger of Corstorphine Hill to check that the hole Shadow had gone down wasn’t a badger’s sett, because if it was we wouldn’t have been able to touch it because they are protected.

“Luckily it wasn’t and we managed to get him out with a lance taped to a white drainage pipe.

“It was surreal, at one point there were eight firemen, two assistants from the Scottish SPCA, my husband, our three children and members of the community that had gathered.

“When Shadow came out he was all muddy, but we are so relieved he’s safe – we would like to say a massive thank you to everyone that helped us.”

Lee Williams, a Scottish SPCA animal rescue officer who assisted in Shadow’s rescue, said: “Everyone involved was very glad there was a happy outcome to this rescue.

“Any dog that has a tendency to go down setts or burrows should be kept on a lead, for both their welfare and of any wild animals it may encounter.”