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'We were all practically in tears when we saw the dog,' recounted Lt. Lorne Vaught.

COURTESY PHOTO: GASTON RURAL FIRE DEPARTMENT - 12-year-old Blue Jean was missing for around four hours Sunday morning.Blue Jean didn't return inside after her morning business like usual.

So Ryan Hoftiezer and his wife Danelle scoured their five acres in Gaston. Still no sign of their 12-year-old Blue Heeler.

Hoftiezer's thoughts turned toward coyotes, cougars and the unthinkable.

"We don't have kids, just fur babies. This is my little girl. I'm losing it at this point, like, 'Oh my God, I just lost my dog,'"Hoftiezer said. "Then looking at the front door, I hear this laboring. I thought it was the washer and dryer coming through the wall, but it was a breathing sound."

Blue Jean was six feet under — yet alive. She had fallen down a ventilation pipe installed by a previous owner that was typically covered with chicken wire, most likely chasing a squirrel.

Hoftiezer started to dig into the dirt and rock surrounding the pipe and quickly realized he needed help. He called 9-1-1, and volunteer firefighters started arriving.

"I said, 'It's not an emergency, but it is an emergency. It's not a fire. My dog is down there. Can you help?'" Hoftiezer said. "They started showing up like the cavalry. It was awesome."

In total, eight firefighters, a county sheriff's deputy and finally a neighbor with an excavator responded to the call. COURTESY PHOTO: GASTON RURAL FIRE DEPARTMENT - Volunteer firefighters used shovels, picks and an excavateor to dig out the pipe.

"Pet calls aren't really that common. We've had some horse rescues. We've rescued pigs, snakes, bearded dragons, cats and of course dogs. We don't make a habit of it, though," said Gaston Rural Fire District volunteer Lt. Lorne Vaught. "We couldn't see the dog. We could hear it, but we couldn't see it. We were all really worried it wasn't going to work. The last thing you want to do is pull a dead or injured dog from that pipe."

The pipe was an upside-down T shape, and 40-pound Blue Jean was standing in water up to her chest.

Some four hours since she first went missing, volunteer firefighters were able to dig out the pipe, cut it open, grab a paw and pull her to safety.COURTESY PHOTO: GASTON RURAL FIRE DEPARTMENT - Blue Jean poses with some of her rescuers.

"We were all practically in tears when we saw the dog. The first thing on my mind was 'somebody lock that hole before the dog goes back in that hole,'" Vaught said.

Hoftizier first adopted Blue Jean in Arizona when she was just 1 year old. She likes chasing him down the mountain when he snowboards and swimming in the Tualatin River.

"She comes everywhere with me. She just follows me everywhere," Hoftizier said. "Sometimes she walks too much during the day trying to follow me around, so I pick her up and take her up the stairs at night."

He tried to offer the volunteers gas money for their time on a Sunday morning. They refused.


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