The plucky dog who dug herself out of a rabbit hole after 10 days ...and then got help to save her trapped pal
It was like a scene from Lassie – a Jack Russell playing a dramatic role in saving her doggy mate.
Poppy, a six-year-old pet, has been hailed a heroine after saving her little pal Sparkie when the pair became trapped in a rabbit burrow for 10 days.
The dogs' ordeal began on July 2 when their owners took them out for an evening walk from their home in Broughshane, Co Antrim.
Owner Joan Hillan said they were playing in a field in an area known as the Skerries when they suddenly disappeared.
Despite frantic searches by Joan and her husband Andrew, who own veterinary practices in Antrim and Ballymena, there was no sign of them.
"They went romping away in the fields and when they didn't return we searched for them for hours with no luck," Joan added.
Ten days passed, with the family almost giving up hope of seeing their much-loved pets again when Poppy appeared home on her own.
The family – including Andrew junior (19), Matthew (17) and 15-year-old daughter Sara – were delighted to see her back.
"We had almost given up hope of ever seeing our pets again 10 days later when Poppy turned up at the door looking thin and ragged and hungry, but very much alive," a delighted Joan added.
Then, in an act legendary rescue dog Lassie would be proud of, the next day the weary pet led her owners back to the area of the rabbit burrow where they realised she had been trapped.
"We cleaned her up and let her rest and then on the Twelfth she was fit and well enough to take us back to the burrow," the vet added.
"She got us close enough to hear Sparkie barking down that hole and my daughter Sara was first on the scene and set him free, pulling rocks and soil away."
It appeared that Poppy had managed to dig her way out of the underground hole, possibly after losing weight, before running home to raise the alarm.
"Poppy is definitely the heroine of this rescue," Joan added.
"It was losing weight that probably saved her and allowed her to break free from the burrow.
"The mystery is how they managed to get water. There could have been a spring down that hole," she said.
Both Poppie and Sparkie, who is half dachshund, are recovering well from their ordeal.