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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Teenagers rescue trapped dog
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Staff Photos by Morris Stephenson: Kenny Halecat Hale and Cheyenne, an 11-year-old black Labrador, are surrounded by the teenagers who helped free the dog from entrapment in a 20-inch drain pipe Sunday evening. Shown, from left, are Jeremiah Boitnott, Matt Turner, Michael Holley, Michael Hedges and Jeff Philpott. Not pictured are Ashley Weeks and Hales son-in-law, Travis Mize.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Five teenagers ignored pouring rain and mud to help a Ferrum man and his son free their aging dog from a 20-inch drain pipe Sunday evening.

The teenagers from the Henry and Ferrum areas were credited by the dog owner for saving the 11-year-old black Labrador Retriever, who suffers from arthritis.

The dog, Cheyenne, who had last been seen Saturday evening, may have been trapped in the mud-filled pipe for more than 12 hours.

Kenny "Halecat" Hale and his 17-year-old son, Michael Hedges, agreed that they may not have been able to free the dog without the assistance of Michael's five friends.

The drama unfolded with "18 laps left in the (NASCAR) race" at Talladega, Ala. Hale guessed the time to be between 4:30 and 5 p.m.

Michael asked his father for a ride to his friend Jeremiah Boitnott's home. His 17-year-old friend lives down Turner's Creek Road from the Hale's residence.

Hale told him he would drive him to his friend's house after the final 18 laps of the race were completed.

Michael decided to take a short cut through a field and walk to Jeremiah's house rather than wait for the ride.

That decision probably saved Cheyenne's life.

About 50 yards into the walk, the path crossed the buried pipe. That's when he heard a dog whining. The sound came from within the pipe, and he recognized it.

Racing back to the house, he got his father. Using a flashlight, they discovered the dog was trapped about 20 feet inside the pipe.

The father sent Sissy, an 8-year-old Beagle, into the pipe to see if Cheyenne would follow her out. But two attempts by Sissy failed.

"I think the arthritis probably kept Cheyenne from backing out," Hale said.

They finally discovered a small opening in the pipe near where their dog was stuck. They had one shovel and started "digging our brains out, trying to get to her and hoping she would not panic," Hale said.

About that time, Matt Turner, 16, a member of the Ferrum Volunteer Fire Department, and Michael Holley, 17, a member of the Henry VFD drove by the area. The two teenagers turned around to see if they could help. The pair started to dig, sharing the one shovel.

All the while, they could hear Cheyenne digging to free herself.

Then Jeremiah, whom Michael had set off to visit, arrived, along with Hale's son-in-law, Travis Mize, 26, who brought two shovels.

In the meantime, Jeff Philpott, 17, a member of the Henry VFD, and his girlfriend, Ashley Weeks, 17, stopped at Matt Turner's house, looking for him. When they learned of the situation, they went to help.

Then a pouring rain came. Ashley raced to Hale's house to get a large bucket she could use to divert water that could come from a larger pipe under the road that fed the 40-foot smaller pipe, where the dog was trapped.

With the youths taking turns with the shovel, the lower 20-foot section of pipe and the area where the pipes joined were cleared of the dirt, which turned into a slick mud with the rain. Rocks used to brace the pipes slowed their efforts.

Hale said he could barely slip his hand into the opening. When he did, he felt the dog's backbone.

"At one point, I slipped my hand farther inside and felt her nose." The dog licked Hale's hand, so he knew she was still alive.

Hale went to the house and got his antique pickup truck and a heavy chain to lift the pipe from the trench.

The chain broke, and he quickly retrieved a second one. The slick mud also created problems with the truck getting traction.

The boys pushed Cheyenne backward in the pipe, which enabled Hale to use the truck and chain to move pipe to one side, just a little.

But it gave Michael enough room to get both hands on the scruff of the dog's neck, and he inched her out of the hole.

"I finally got my hands on her shoulders and just kept pulling until I could get her out," Michael said.

It took more than two hours to free Cheyenne.

"She was exhausted from trying to dig her way out and was apparently frightened by the ordeal. But the main thing was, she was alive and okay," Hale said.

And Sissy was excited about seeing her companion free again, Hale added.

Hale and his wife, Blue, had nothing but praise for the five teenagers, their son and their son-in-law for all they did.

"They were clean and well dressed when they arrived. But they were soaking wet and covered with mud after we got the dog out," Hale said.

Once everyone dried off and cleaned off some of the mud, the Hales treated them to pizza and drinks.

The parents of the five youths involved are Danny and Corlis Boitnott, Curtis and Sharon Turner, Sabrina and the late Mike Holley, Randy and Rhonda Philpott, and David and Vicki Coleman, parents of Ashley Weeks.

"I just want everyone to know that our young people are not lazy and unfeeling, as some think. These teenagers were here for us and our animal. They jumped right in to help, expecting nothing in return," Hale said.

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