Roxie and Tucker got more excitement than they bargained for when they flew the coop for a night on the town in Clinton.
The two dogs were back home Tuesday with shaved coats and chastened dispositions after more than 12 hours stuck in an old grease pit beneath a U-Haul office building along Highway 525, rescuers said.
“Why they decided to go in there, who knows? But they did,” Island County Fire District 3 Deputy Chief Jon Beck said Monday.
It started out with a heady burst of unexpected freedom.
Roxie, a small black Lab about 3 years old, and Tucker, a 9-year-old German shepherd mix, escaped the family home sometime this past Thursday evening while their owners were out of town on a short vacation.
Owner Katie Morris of Clinton said the dogs slipped away when her house sitter was about to feed them. A tree had recently knocked down a section of backyard fence, and Roxie and Tucker headed right for it, she said.
They then apparently wandered more than three miles from their Holst Road home, across Highway 525, down a steep bank and into the building that housed the crater that was to become their captor.
Later that night, neighbors near the U-Haul office heard barking, and in the morning they investigated.
Roxie and Tucker had become trapped in the grease pit in the old building that once had been used to lubricate vehicles, Beck said.
The neighbors called 911 about 9:30 a.m., and half a dozen firefighters responded, along with Island County Animal Control Officer Carol Barnes.
Beck said the pit contained about 2½ feet of ground and rainwater that had collected, along with a thick sheen of old oil that had accumulated through the years.
Roxie was sitting on an old tire and wheel floating on the goo; Tucker was standing in the muck.
“They didn’t fight or resist at all — they were just exhausted and ready to get out of there,” Beck said. “I just put on the big rubber gloves and grabbed them by the collars and pulled them out.”
Beck and the other firefighters, along with Barnes, tried to scrub the oil from the dogs’ coats, but the mixture was too thick, Barnes said.
She loaded them into her vehicle and drove to a groomers in Coupeville, where it was decided that the only recourse was to shave most of their coats.
The dogs were then taken to a nearby vet’s office for a checkup, and then transported to the WAIF animal shelter near Coupeville until their owners could be located and notified, Barnes said.
“At the vets, we put a heater on them, and they both slept for a couple of hours,” she said. “They were amazingly cooperative — they knew we were trying to help them.”
The dogs were retrieved by their owners from WAIF on Monday, not too much the worse for wear. Both dogs originally were WAIF rescues, Morris said.
Sundown Bova, manager of the U-Hall office, said Monday that the grease pit, which was never a commercial operation, hadn’t been used for at least 15 years. He said the doors to the building in which it’s located are usually kept closed and locked, and he wasn’t sure why they were open when the dogs happened by.
“I guess somebody forgot to close it,” Bova said, adding that he was out of town when the incident occurred.
“The doors are locked now,” he said.
Officials declined to disclose the owner of the building, pending investigation.
Beck said he was required to notify the Island County Health Department because oil was involved.
Aaron Henderson, county environment health director, said Monday his department has begun an initial investigation of the facility, and has contacted the state Department of Ecology.
Chris Wilkerson of Ecology said Monday that his agency wouldn’t investigate further because the incident didn’t involve the seepage of oil into a water supply.
As for Morris, she said Tuesday morning that the dogs appear to be doing well.
“Basically, they get up to eat, go outside, then get back on the couch,” she said. “I’m going to keep them that way for a few more days.”
And she said she’s grateful to rescuers, and for a more-or-less satisfactory ending.
“I’m just happy it wasn’t kids who got in there,” she said. “That could have been pretty ugly. We’re just fortunate all the way around.”