Hero dog saves horse trapped in sinkhole

Belle the dog

Belle the dog

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A dog may be man’s best friend but one plucky pooch’s heroic bark saved the life of a trapped horse.

Shirley Mills’s 24-year-old horse Lucy became the focus of a major rescue operation after she got stuck in a sinkhole that opened up in the field where she was grazing on Tuesday night.

Shirley Mills with Lucy

Shirley Mills with Lucy

But had it not been for the 68-year-old animal lover’s pet dog Belle raising the alarm, she says she may never have known about the horse’s plight.

She said: “If the dog hadn’t barked and I hadn’t seen her, she would probably have been dead by the morning.”

The pensioner was getting ready to go to bed when Belle started barking incessantly at around 9.45pm on Tuesday, drawing her attention to the field behind her home in Duddle Lane, Bamber Bridge.

When she went to investigate she discovered the horse was stuck in a 4ft hole, sparking the rescue mission.

If the dog hadn’t barked and I hadn’t seen her, she would probably have been dead by the morning

Shirley Mills

“My dog was barking,” she said. “I knew something wasn’t right.

“I looked outside and I could see that Lucy was down on the ground, which she doesn’t normally do.

“I went up the field to see her and found a sinkhole had opened up and she was trapped.

“It is a really good job Belle barked, otherwise I would never have known.”

The helpless owner called the fire service immediately, sparking a two-hour rescue mission by eight firefighters and a vet.

Explaining the precarious operation, a spokesman for Bamber Bridge fire service said: “The hole was about four foot deep and the horse was right down to its stomach.

“The vet had given her painkillers and we managed to get a piece of metal called a strop under the hoof.

“Then we could attach straps and slings to pull her out without hurting her or risking her harming us.

“We managed to get some straps round her leg and managed to physically pull her out sideways.

“We rolled her back on to her stomach and got her to stand up.

“We called in the rapid rescue team from St Annes but luckily we managed to get her out by manually pulling her rather than lifting her straight up and out with their special equipment.

“She is a big shire horse and that method would have been a last resort.”

Now animal lover Shirley has hailed the fire service for rescuing her horse.

She said: “I couldn’t have got her out on my own, no way, she is 17 hands and it was a case of what can I do? I was on my own. I was helpless.

“But the fire service arrived within 15 minutes.

“I thought she could have broken her leg, it was getting up to two hours.

“If she’d have struggled she’d have gone down it.

“I’m so thankful for the fire service. They couldn’t have been better – they saved her life.”