Marathon dig in the dark to save stuck puppy

Jeff Wicks, The Witness

Durban - Cheers and applause echoed through the neighbourhood of Phoenix, Durban, at 03:00 on Tuesday, celebrating the fact that sometimes the little things matter the most.

It was pitch dark as specialist rescue technicians led a team of 15, including firefighters and road crews, in a frantic search for one little creature.

His name was Titus, an 8-week-old Mastiff, who had disappeared down a storm drain and whose plight had captured the hearts of men more used to dealing with scenes of human tragedy.

Seven hours

Titus’s cries had been heard for over seven hours as his rescuers battled through shale and rock, trying to dig him out.

As they toiled, Towlen Drive in Phoenix was illuminated by a roseate of emergency lights but by 03:00 they had all but given up hope. The tiny pup had fallen silent in the darkness of the underground drain.

RescueTech spokesperson Nick Holmes, who was part of the rescue party, said: “We hadn’t heard a sound from the puppy for nearly two hours and we were on the verge of giving up when he started yelping again.

“His frantic barking sparked a renewed vigour for us to carry on.

“One of our guys managed to get his arm inside and reaching about in the hole, he got hold of the puppy and pulled him out,” Holmes said.

As Titus was pulled from the pipe, the cheers and applause rang out.


Hours before, his owner, Sheritha Neelakandan, noticed that Titus was missing.

Counting the rest of the litter, she noticed Titus’s mother sniffing at the entrance of the storm drain in their garden.

As she drew nearer, she heard the trapped puppy yelping.

“First we called the SPCA and they came out and said we needed to get the municipality to help and tell us where the drain went,” she said.

Eventually rescuers from several departments descended on their home, and were using heavy duty excavation equipment to track the path of the narrow pipe.

Holmes said they were called for help late on Monday night.

“We got the call from the Coastal SPCA on Monday night asking if we could help rescue a puppy which had gotten stuck in a drain. The fire brigade had been called out, but they weren’t prepared to excavate the drain pipe so they left the scene,” he said.

Road crew saved the day

Holmes said that the arrival of a municipal road crew had saved the day.

“We managed to get hold of someone at the municipality and they organised a road crew to come to the scene and assist with heavy digging equipment to battle through shale and rock - if it wasn’t for them we would still be digging there now.”

Neelakandan said she was elated when Titus was freed.

“I had been so worried and now he is just fine, it is a gift to have him here,” she said.