George Fryar heard a whimpering coming from a sinkhole Wednesday morning: his Rottweiler puppy, Dicie.

“I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her and didn’t know how I was going to get her out,” Fryar said. “I felt kind of helpless.”

Dicie fell into roughly 13-foot-deep sinkhole Tuesday morning and had been stuck below for about 36 hours before she was rescued Wednesday night by a group of rescue organizations, including the UF Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service (VETS).

At just 6 and a half months old, the 60-pound puppy escaped from her pen Tuesday morning while Fryar was at a doctor’s appointment. He said Dicie’s sister, Mae, also escaped but came back without her.

Fryar, 60, searched for Dicie for almost 24 hours before he heard the whimpering in an 80-acre field across from his home in O’Brien, Florida, about an hour northwest of Gainesville.

Fryar called his dog’s veterinarian, who then called VETS. The rescue team worked with Suwannee County Fire Department and Suwannee County Animal Services to dig their way to Dicie, said VETS team leader John Haven.

Haven said they used a huge industrial forklift to get Dicie out of the sinkhole. The sinkhole was about a foot wide and was filled with water at the bottom.

“We had to make sure that we weren’t knocking any dirt or rocks down into the water because that would make the water level rise and might even drown her,” he said.

It took VETS and the other groups about two hours to dig out Dicie. She was slightly hypothermic, dehydrated and covered in sand when they rescued her.

“It was almost kind of caked on her like cement or something,” Fryar said.

Fryar said Dicie was evaluated and had no cuts, fractures or broken bones. He said Dicie is still weak but is doing well, despite a slight hobble.

“It’s not about me, it’s about what the team at UF and what the firemen and the people who brought the heavy equipment and the people that were there to get her out,” Fryar said. 

Haven said Fryar is a really determined owner and was concerned about the safety of the rescuers the whole time.

“I don’t have any two-legged children, all my children are four-legged,” Haven said. “My dogs are my kids, and clearly it was the same way with him, and to be able to (reunite) his family was just really awesome.”

[A version of this story ran on page 13 on 10/17/2014]