A mischievous pup has been reunited with his family in a happy ending to an eight-hour rescue mission in Troon on Monday.
One-year-old Patterdale Terrier Murdo is resting up after his ordeal which saw him trapped over 8ft inside a fox den in woodland near to Troon Cemetery.
Little Murdo bolted off in pursuit of a fox while on his usual walk with owners Stephen Watters, 58, daughter Amy, 18, and their other dog Haggis, a nine-year-old Border Terrier.
It quickly became clear that Murdo was stuck deep inside the rabbit warren turned fox den, and after several attempts of trying to coax him out, Stephen decided to call the fire service.
Emergency responders quickly arrived to the scene, including two fire engines from both Troon community fire station and Kilmarnock, a special incident truck and police to help with traffic flow at the site.
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Stephen, from Troon, told Ayrshire Live: “We could hear him for the first 20 minutes and then we couldn’t hear him, so we thought the worst had happened.”
After three hours of digging, a special camera used by the fire service picked up what looked like a dog, alive and moving, about 8ft down the tunnel.
However, Stephen was in for a shock when he offered his help to retrieve the furry friend.
He said: “One of the firemen got down and managed to grab the tip of the tail, but the dog was moving away from him.
“So I said, ‘I’ll go down and shout him and maybe he won’t disappear’.
“I dropped down into the tunnel, the fireman held onto my feet, and I managed to get the tail.
“I thought the tail was a bit bushier than it should be, but thought maybe he was just a bit frightened.
“As I pulled the tail out I realized it was actually a fox! I don’t know who got the bigger fright to be honest.”
After four hours of digging, the decision was made to call it a day in the hope that Murdo would make his own way out.
The family returned an hour later to uncover a tunnel Stephen thought had been covered over during the dig – which would have left Murdo with no escape access – and heard the frightened pup whimpering.
Stephen called on his friend, Stephen McNab, who brought a small digger down to scrape away dirt and debris.
Another kind passer-by, John Bryson from Dundonald, came to the family’s aid and was about to rush home to get specialist cameras he uses for work to look for Murdo, before trying the tunnel himself as he has longer arms.
“Down he went, shuffled himself into the tunnel, and next thing he lunged forward and we heard a muffled shouting saying, ‘pull me out by my legs, grab my legs’,” said Stephen.
“I grabbed his legs, dragged him out and he came out with his hands on Murdo’s tail.
“It was a good feeling – a bit of a rollercoaster.”
Murdo was “shaking like a leaf” and taken straight to a vet but thankfully given the all clear with nothing more than some cuts and bruises, and damage to his face; thought to be from fighting the fox.
Stephen added: “It’s nice to have a happy ending.
“A massive thank you to everyone who was involved; the fire crews at both Troon and Kilmarnock, especially to John for pulling him out and to Stephen McNab for tidying up afterwards because there was a lot of debris there and trenches needing filled.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.