Dog stuck at bottom of well for 27 days has 'a real zest for life'

Bruno, a Labrador retriever trapped for nearly a month at the bottom of an abandoned well, is recovering after the amazing ordeal.

WARNING: This story contains graphic images

Following a stay at the local veterinarian's, Bruno - a Labrador retriever that spent 27 days stuck at the bottom of an abandoned well near Estevan - was taken to the veterinary college at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon for further care. (Cindy Billesberger/Submitted to CBC)

A dog trapped for nearly a month in an old well is recovering after the amazing ordeal.

"This dog, Bruno, had a real zest for life and will to live," John Billesberger said a few days after his dog, a Labrador retriever, was found at the muddy bottom of a long-forgotten well which was about three metres deep.

This was just unbelievable that we'd found him.- John Billesberger

John and Cindy Billesberger, who live on a farm in the Estevan, Sask., area, have three retrievers. On Sept. 17, John went to do some work in his fields.

"The dogs, they're full of energy and they came and followed me," Billesberger said. He recalled he didn't pay much attention to the dogs, but realized at the end of the day that one of the animals was missing.

"Bruno never came back," Billesberger said, adding that it was unusual. "Bruno likes his food. He always comes for supper."

Right away, the Billesbergers set out looking for the seven-year-old dog.

After 27 days without food, Bruno receives treatment at a veterinary clinic in Estevan. The dog was found at the bottom of a three-metre deep well. (Cindy Billesberger/Submitted to CBC)

"We scoured the field," he said.

Worried he may have inadvertently dropped a large round bale on the dog, Billesberger double-checked all the work he had done that Saturday. "Thank goodness I never found him [under a bale]."

As the days went by, they kept looking and expanding their search — checking roadside ditches and anywhere else they could think of.

Finally, on Oct. 14 — nearly a month after Bruno went missing — he was discovered.

"I was about a half a mile away from the house," Billesberger said. He noticed one of his other dogs was lingering in a spot on the neighbour's property. When he checked it out, pushing aside some tall grass, he found his missing dog.

Bruno was curled up at the bottom of an old well.

"It was about four feet wide and 10 feet down — and there was Bruno," he said. "He lifted his head. But he couldn't bark."

Billesberger said he was astounded his dog was still alive after 27 days.

"I just couldn't believe it because we had looked everywhere," he said. "This was just unbelievable that we'd found him."

Rescuing Bruno from the well

The next thing was to get Bruno out.

"I called my son. He came over and had some ropes," he said. His son jumped into the well, picked Bruno out of the mud and lifted him up to Billesberger.

"Then we got him into the truck and on to the vet in Estevan," he said. "They were just excellent and took good care of him."

Bruno, a Labrador retriever, being cared for at a veterinary clinic in Estevan. The dog was trapped in an abandoned well for 27 days. (Cindy Billesberger/Submitted to CBC)

Billesberger said that during the time the dog was trapped, it had rained for a couple of days so the only thing available to the animal was some water. He said Bruno lost about 35 to 40 pounds during the ordeal. At the vet's, he weighed 50 pounds.

He said the dog was very listless and non-responsive when first found, but has since improved.

"He looks much better," he said. "He recognizes us and we're very hopeful."

At vet college in Saskatoon

The local vet recommended additional care at the veterinary college at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, and Cindy Billesberger transported Bruno there on Wednesday.

"Hopefully I can pick him up before too long [and bring him home]," Billesberger said. He said the main concern of the vets was kidney failure but — so far — test results show Bruno may not have suffered any long-term damage.

The dog is still on the mend, however, and has anemia.

"We weren't sure he was going to make it," he said. "Every day the vet is saying things are getting better and better. So, we're very optimistic."

Billesberger said the well has since been filled in.

Estevan is about 200 kilometres southeast of Regina.