RESCUING LUCY: Edmond hunter learns fate of one bird dog while saving another
Two years ago in late December, Jim Feist of Edmond was quail hunting in Alfalfa County on his lease with a friend, Jim Ferguson, and Feist's fabulous 4-year-old German shorthaired pointer, Jack.
Jack, who ran faster than any dog Feist had ever seen, had been rescued by him along with four other dogs from a bird dog puppy mill in Kansas.
Jack was never out of the quail hunter's sight for very long unless he was holding a point. But on this December day in 2015, Jack was lost.
"We had stopped at a usual location to hunt then Jack just disappeared," Feist said. "He always checked in every few minutes if he was out of sight of the truck. He seemingly had vanished into thin air even though he was wearing a beeper and locator collar."
For days, Feist searched for Jack. He put up posters at nearby farm houses and restaurants. He notified all the veterinarians, game wardens and police in the area.
"He was gone without a trace," Feist said. "It was a huge loss."
Discovering Jack's fate
Jack was never found, but Feist still had puppies from the beloved bird dog, including one named Lucy.
Two weeks ago, Feist was quail hunting with friends Tom Ferguson and John Burchfiel, both of Edmond. They were hunting with Lucy and her siblings on the same ground where Jack had disappeared two years earlier, land that Feist had hunted on for 23 years.
Ferguson and Burchfiel were hunting with Lucy. Feist was with dealing with another dog when he heard Ferguson yell that Lucy had fallen in a well. The dog had stumbled into an old, abandoned water well that was hidden from sight.
"There is very thick tall grass in the area but in 23 years I had never seen a well anywhere near this location," Feist said. "Nor had the landowners."
The bricked well was 30 inches in diameter and looked to be 20 feet deep. The hunters soon discovered a slab of concrete, evidence that it had been a homestead at one time, probably more than 100 years old.
"It only took a few minutes for me to realize how Jack had disappeared so suddenly," Feist said. "His remains were at the bottom."
A frantic rescue attempt
Lucy would suffer the same fate if the hunters didn't act quickly to save her from drowning. She was swimming desperately in the water, trying to stay afloat.
"You could barely see her because the well was so deep," Feist said. "It was nearly dark at the bottom."
The hunters tried to rescue Lucy with rope and jumper cables.
"In the truck we only had short lead ropes, and I had a pair of heavy duty jumper cables that were 20 feet long," Feist said. "We split one end of the cables enough to form a loop by connecting the heavy grips together.
"John was able to get the loop over Lucy's head and as she was thrashing around, the loop got behind her front legs and ended up at her rear flank.
"The cables could lift her back side just enough to stabilize her so she could put her front paws against the brick wall and keep her head and body from submerging. However, there was no way we could pull her out with the jumper cables."
Feist then remembered there are a number of deer tree stands on the property with ladders. One stand had a ladder that was at least 15 feet tall. It was about a mile away.
"Tom was holding Lucy up with the cables and consoling her," Feist said. "John and I jumped into the truck to go get the ladder."
Feist kept a good set of tools in the truck, but the ladder stand was just too well secured to the tree and too high to even consider trying to get it down.
They then raced to another tree stand on the property with a ladder that was about 10 to 12 feet long. It took a while, but the hunters removed the ladder and returned to the well.
However, the ladder could not reach the bottom of the well, even with ropes attached.
"The well is too deep," Feist said. "There was at least 5 feet of water plus 20 feet to the surface. We were out of ideas and about out of daylight. I called 911."
I Love Lucy
The 911 dispatcher was in Cherokee nearly 20 miles away. Feist didn't know the small town of Byron, about eight miles away, had a volunteer fire department.
He explained the situation to the dispatcher and instructed her to make sure the firefighters brought a lariat rope with them.
He told her that he would meet them at the entrance gate and lead them to the well. The hunters were in a pasture, a mile and a half from a public road.
As Feist was waiting for the rescue truck to arrive, fire chief Brad Rieger called. He was in Wichita, Kansas, but said his unit was on the way. He wanted detailed information since his department had never faced this challenge before.
In a few minutes, Feist could see the flashing lights and heard the sirens. There was a fire truck, a rescue truck and a civilian car.
By the time they got back to the well, it was nearly dark. Lucy was terrified, incredibly tired and incredibly courageous.
Firefighters shined a flashlight down the well and firefighter Jessica Allen was able to swing a noose around Lucy's head and tightened it. The firefighters' plan was to pull the dog up by the neck as fast as they could so she wouldn't have time to choke.
"It took less than three seconds," Feist said. "Lucy was up, soaked and stinking beyond belief from God only knows what all was in that water for the last 100 years."
A grateful hunter
Allen grabbed Lucy, hugging her the instant she was out of that well. She then wrapped her in a blanket and put her in the truck with the heater turned on to keep her from going into shock.
"I had already accepted that I had lost Jack forever but now, at least, I know what happened to him," he said. "Not knowing had been hard to deal with. I'm OK now, and so is Lucy."
A trip to the vet that evening revealed Lucy only had abrasions on her front feet from the bricks, but with some treatment and a night's rest she was ready to hunt the next morning.
Feist had lost one precious dog to the concealed well, but another was saved thanks to Amorita-Byron Fire & Rescue in Alfalfa County.
"Here's a thank you to the Byron Volunteer Fire Department and all the firefighters for being there when we, and our animals need you, no matter the circumstance," Feist said.
"There are thousands of terrific volunteer rural firefighters all over this country that are available when the Lucys of the world need to be saved."