Neighbors, strangers rally to save lost dog

Sarge, a 13-year-old Husky, left his happy home Wednesday night when the wind blew open the screen door on the back porch, where he lives with the Witkowski family on Purcell Drive.

Jillian Witkowski, Sarge’s girl, said the dog is not prone to wander, but this time he stayed out all night, the next day and another night, which surprised the Witkowskis.

“We found that the door was open about 11 o’clock,” Witkowski, 19, said.

“A lot of times if the door blows open, he’ll go out and roam around the yard, maybe for an hour, but it’s very rare that he leaves,” she said.

Jillian said her family became more concerned the longer Sarge went missing.

“We were kind of fearing the worst because he’s starting to get older. We were kind of starting to worry that something had happened,” Witkowski said.

As it turned out, Sarge stayed out because he was stuck, up to his neck, in mud at a nearby construction site.

But the Witkowskis didn’t know that and neither did the neighborhood children who all know Sarge, said Adina Keys, a neighbor of the Witkowskis.

“Sarge has just been a loved dog of the neighborhood, a beloved dog, you know? And all of the kids were like ‘We’ve got to find Sarge.’ They spent all day looking for him yesterday,” Keys said Friday.

Everybody was looking for Sarge, but none had any luck, Witkowski said.

“My neighbor Adina had offered to pay the neighborhood kids $5 if they could find him. My family went on walks. We drove around. We looked for pretty much all day yesterday,” Witkowski said Friday after a gang of construction workers found her beloved Sarge.

“Finally, this morning, one of the construction workers had called my neighbor and said, ‘We found the dog.'” Witkowski said Friday.

The Witkowskis put Keys’ phone number on Sarge’s collar years ago when Keys was a stay-at-home mom, Witkowski said.

When she got the call, Keys was about to leave the house. She has a job these days and isn’t home as much, but no one ever bothered to change the number on Sarge’s collar, Keys said.

Ken Martin leads the construction crew that found Sarge and said his men Darren Apple Sr., Bill Hamp and Darren Apple Jr. found the dog just in time.

“Another two or three hours and I’m afraid Sarge would have given up,” Martin said of the dog mired in mud and water.

The construction men dug a drainage ditch so some of the water around Sarge could run off, Martin said.

“He was sunk halfway up his body in the mud. The water was probably a foot deep. He was holding his head above it … had his head laid up on some dirt,” Martin said.

“We just started digging and we got down to where we could get a hold of his dog collar. It had the owner’s name and phone number on it,” he said.

Martin took Jillian and her father, Bruce Witkowski, to Sarge.

“You needed a truck to get down in there so I went down to the end of the road and picked them up. They just jumped in and started digging with their bare hands. We were scared to use the shovel. We weren’t sure if he was hurt or what,” Martin said.

“He was scared at first until we started talking to him. The more mud we got off of him , you could tell, the more relieved he was getting,” Martin said.

Sarge’s rescue was pure happenstance, Martin said.

“The only way they found that dog was Bill Hamp’s truck got stuck. They had to get out of the truck, and when they got out of the truck the dog barked,” Martin said.

Once the Witkowskis dug Sarge from the sludge, they loaded him in Martin’s truck and took him to the veterinarian.

Darren Apple loaned his coat to Sarge.

“The construction workers had given us their jackets. They were more than willing to help and we wrapped him up in the jackets and they were more than willing to drive us to the vet … very helpful,” Witkowski said.

“They were great guys,” Keys said.

“We put the dog on the jacket after we got him out and put him in the back of my truck because he was just caked in mud,” Martin said.

The vet treated Sarge for hypothermia, administered steroids and antibiotics and released him to the Witkowskis on Saturday.

Sarge was alert and resting at home Saturday afternoon.

Jillian said she hopes his adventures have cured his wanderlust.

“He’s a family dog. He belongs here, with us, I think,” she said.

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