German Shepherds Survive 21 Days Trapped in Abandoned Missile Silo

From the moment that Jessica Donges of Medical Lake, Washington got married, she knew dogs would be part of her family. After two years of marriage, the Dongeses brought their first furry companion, Ziva, into the family, and one year later a male companion, Zeus. The family purchased pet insurance for both dogs soon after adopting Zeus, but never needed to submit a claim—until the unthinkable happened. While playing outside, curiosity got the best of the doggy duo, which led them to escaping from the backyard and finding their way to a nearby abandoned missile silo. The pair’s adventure took a terrible turn and led to them being stuck in a deep crevasse for 21 days. Their life-saving rescue and miraculous recovery earned Ziva and Zeus the title of April’s “Most Unusual Claim of the Month” by Nationwide, the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance.

“Ziva was an amazing puppy. We knew immediately we wanted another dog,” said Jessica. “About a year later, I surprised my husband with Zeus for his birthday. Ziva was hesitant about Zeus in the beginning, but they quickly became best friends.”

Two years later, the duo is close as ever, sticking by each other’s side every moment of the day. The day of the incident was like no other; Ziva and Zeus were having fun outside when they came across a previously unnoticed hole in the backyard fence. Being as curious as they are, they capitalized on their discovery and went to explore the unknown.

“I was at work when they got out and received a call from my husband telling me the bad news,” said Jessica. “I came home immediately and we started looking all night for them. By the end of the night, I was hysterical.”

Holding onto hope that the pair was nearby, Jessica did everything she could to find Ziva and Zeus. She made flyers to hang up around town, knocked on doors and used social media to spread the word. With local family driving in to join the search, and the help of the community, Jessica was confident she would be reunited with her missing pups.

“It was going on day 21 of them being missing,” said Jessica. “I had exhausted all means of searching and decided to retrace all my steps again. I went to re-explore the abandoned missile silo located 200 yards behind our backyard again.”

Walking slowly along private property that was fenced off, Jessica came across a hole in the fence and proceeded to enter the field through the opening. Unsure of what to expect, but looking for some sort of closure, Jessica walked into the silo very slowly, keeping her eyes and ears open for anything.

After a few minutes, she came across a garage door opened knee-high and heard barking. Hesitant to lift the door because she was unsure of what dogs were on the other side, she used her mobile phone flashlight to look under the opening. Jessica heaved the roll-up door open only to find complete darkness. Hearing familiar barking to her right, Jessica turned and found a hole, roughly 10 feet deep by 40 feet long. Inside were her exhausted pups, Ziva and Zeus.

“They were standing in this huge hole filled with about 6 inches of water,” said Jessica. “I knew I could not lift them out of the hole alone without injuring them, so I called 9-1-1.”

Minutes later the local police and firefighters showed up to help get Ziva and Zeus out of the hole. Immediately after the dogs were lifted out, they started running around excitedly, wanting to play.

Though neither seemed to have any noticeable injuries, the pair was visibly emaciated. Jessica immediately rushed them to Pet Emergency Clinic in Spokane, Washington to be evaluated and treated.

“The veterinarian and the entire staff was in shock of how well they were doing,” said Jessica. “Given their situation, they were both in good condition. It could have been a lot worse.”

Both pups were fully examined, including bloodwork. Ziva, who lost more than 20 pounds, was treated for a gash on her leg and given medication for anxiety. Zeus lost close to 30 pounds and was treated for hot spots in several areas, plus giardia and liver issues.

After weeks of close observation, recheck appointments, and small changes to help them readjust back to normal living, Ziva and Zeus are on their way to a full recovery.

“The staff at Pet Emergency treated Ziva and Zeus with so much care; they were so thoughtful with them,” said Jessica. “Having pet insurance saved our bank account and let us focus on getting our dogs better rather than stressing over the bills.”


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