This family’s dog had been their friend and loyal companion for close to a decade, but one day he went out and didn’t return. And as the weeks passed, the family feared the worse. But little did they know that they were about to find out what became of him.
John and Cindy Billesberger are farmers in the Estevan area of Saskatchewan, Canada, where they live with three Labrador retrievers. For this couple, the day of September 17, 2016, started out just like any other. By nightfall, of course, they would be worried sick – but they didn’t know that at the time.
So when John set out to do some work on the fields, as usual his three furry friends accompanied him. “The dogs, they’re full of energy and they came and followed me,” he later told CBC News. However, he didn’t realize until it was too late that one of them had disappeared.
That’s because John left the dogs to their own devices in the field. But once it was time for dinner, the farmer set out the dogs’ meals and realized that their seven-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever Bruno was missing. Immediately, John grew concerned.
In fact, the Lab missing his meal was a very bad sign. “Bruno likes his food. He always comes for supper,” John said. So, nervous that something terrible had happened on the farm, the Billesbergers set out in search of their missing pooch.
But Bruno was nowhere to be found. In fact, John feared that he might have accidentally buried the dog in a falling hay bale during the day’s work. Fortunately, though, there was nothing under any of them. That, at least, was a weight off his mind.
“Thank goodness I never found him [under a bale],” John said. The Billesbergers searched all over their fields, but it was like their dog had just vanished without a trace. So with no sign of Bruno, the couple started to fear that something more sinister had happened to him.
As the days turned into weeks, the Billesbergers’ search area grew. In fact, they began checking everywhere they could, even in ditches along the side of the road. “We had almost completely lost all hope,” he told the Metro. “We thought maybe someone had taken him.”
But almost four weeks later, on October 14, 2016, one of Billesbergers’ other dogs began acting unusual near their neighbor’s land. Naturally, then, John went to investigate. And there, hidden in the tall grass, was a well, and in the bottom was Bruno.
“[The well] was about four feet wide and ten feet down — and there was Bruno. He lifted his head, but he couldn’t bark,” John said. And while he couldn’t get Bruno out of the well by himself, he knew someone who could help.
John explained, “I called my son. He came over and had some ropes.” By climbing down into the well himself, John’s son was able to haul Bruno out of the sticky mud and up to his father. “Then we got him into the truck and on to the vet in Estevan,” John said.
Bruno was in such a terrible state that his doctors didn’t know if he’d survive. “I’ll never forget what he looked like,” Dr. Catherine Colodey of the Prairie Animal Health Center (PAHC) told ABC News. “He looked like a skeleton with skin.”
“He was caked in mud and his skin had deep rashes from standing in that murky, wet environment for so long,” Dr. Colodey added. In addition, the poor pooch had lost almost half his body weight. “[Bruno] couldn’t even pick up his head, let alone open his eyes,” Dr. Colodey said.
In fact, his eyes were infected and covered with cuts. He also had cut paws and had lost some fur on his back. Moreover, the extended stay in an abandoned hole had caused Bruno to become severely dehydrated. Nevertheless, veterinarians thought that it was actually Canada’s snowy weather that saved Bruno’s life.
In fact, Dr. Colodey said that the snowfall gave Bruno the moisture he needed to last so long in the well. “It’s already snowed here quite a bit,” she said. “A lot of us don’t like the snow all that much, but to be honest, the snow was what probably kept Bruno alive.”
Over the following weekend, Dr. Colodey and her team of vets gave Bruno extensive treatment. In fact, the medical team gave him antibiotics, IV Fluids, pain medication and physiotherapy. And because he had been starved of food for nearly a month, his nourishments needed to be administered carefully or his deprived body would react badly.
“Bruno needed our help in a way none of us had experienced before,” the PAHC Facebook page declared. “Over the next few days, he got all the attention and care we could provide. Battling hypothermia, severe dehydration and infection, Bruno showed us what a fighter he was.”
Indeed, Bruno was a survivor and made small amounts of progress every few hours. He even managed to set himself up for a tummy rub from his rescuers! And by day five, he could stand on his own for a few moments and bark to a passing doggy friend.
On October 19, 2016, a medical team transferred Bruno to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. There, he would receive special care for his on-going recovery. “Caring for him has just reminded [me] of why I got into this work in the first place,” Dr. Colodey told ABC News.
Of course, Bruno’s family was overjoyed that they found him in the nick of time too. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s just so great to have my friend back,” John said. PAHC also had a message for them. It wrote, “To Bruno and his family, we will be forever grateful for showing us miracles do happen. [Never] give up hope.”