Arnie returns home safe after Ironbarks ordeal

The Rooke family of Stawell is counting its lucky stars that their foster dog Arnie has returned home alive after spending twenty-five days trapped down a pit in the Ironbark Forest.

For youngsters Archie and Henry and their mum Beth, finding Arnie alive after being missing so long was a miracle.

"We all thought he was gone," Beth said.

"I've been searching the internet and I cannot find a dog that's been trapped for more than 15 days and survived. That includes some of the big stories in America.

"So for him to be gone for 25 days down a pit, I never thought we would see him again."

Arnie went missing when the family was on a regular walk through the Ironbarks. A Staffordshire and Kelpie cross, Arnie set off after a hare and never came back.

Beth searched the area for nearly two weeks, but found no trace of the dog. Naturally, she feared the worse.

"He's our foster dog so we were really worried for him," Beth said.

"Not that we ever gave up on him, but we decided to get another foster dog. We were on our way to Warracknabeal when the call came through that he'd been found.

"Obviously I thought he was found dead, but we were all shocked to hear he was still alive."

A resident fossicking for gold in the Ironbarks made the discovery, much to the delight of the family.

Arnie had lost five kilograms, but since he was found, he has regained a kilogram. He is currently on a strict diet of four feeds a day of highly nutritional puppy food to get his strength back.

"I can't thank the person who found him enough," Beth said.

"When I saw the pit, which is 10 metres off the Hard Nail Road, I realised I had walked past it several times but never saw him.

"The pit was full of rabbit burrows. I believe he has gone into a burrow and became stuck. It was only when he has lost weight, he could free himself."

The ordeal has been so stressful on the entire family, they have pledged to adopt Arnie as their own.

"The papers are in now for adoption," Beth said.

"We've been through so much, all the stress, we can't let him go. We were meant to be together obviously."

Arnie's kidneys are functioning well despite the ordeal and day by day, he is gaining strength.

According to Beth, the support from far and wide has been overwhelming.

"Richard and all the team at the veterinary clinic have been fantastic," she said.

"I think the fact that Arnie was found alive even stumped them.

"Arnie has attracted a massive fan base on Facebook and we have been receiving phone calls all the time asking if we had found him. There are going to be so many relieved people out there. They have all been fantastic."

Beth's eldest son Archie felt the possible loss the most and at times would be found holding a photograph of the dog, asking for him to come home.

What spooked Beth the most though, was the fact that she dreamt about Arnie the night before he was found.

"I had a dream and woke up remembering everything," she said.

"It was almost like a sign from him saying he's gone and that I can let go. It was the complete opposite. Only a few hours after, the call came through that he had been found. It felt very strange."

As for the response from Archie when the dog arrived home last Wednesday: "Just awesome!"

"We never gave up hope, but as the days went by, our hope did fade a little," Beth said.

"He certainly has a long road ahead of him, but we'll make sure he's okay."

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