STAWELL - Illawarra resident, Phillip Need, has a lot to be thankful to the Stawell State Emergency Service for.
Volunteers were involved in the dramatic rescue of Mr Need's Staffordshire, Kiara, last Friday, after she fell down a 20 metre mine shaft in the Illawarra Forest.
Kiara had been missing for six days and six nights and often Mr Need and his family feared the worst.
"We would go out in the forest during the day and again at night and we checked the holes constantly, but found nothing," he said.
"It was a very frightening few days and there were some sleepness nights for me and the family. She's my dog, but the whole family loves her."
While deep down, hope of finding Kiara alive may have been fading, it wasn't something Mr Need was prepared to accept. He wasn't going to give up the search for his beloved pet.
As fate would have it, sounds coming from one of the mine shafts last Thursday evening would lead to the discovery - and eventually the rescue of - young Kiara.
"My brother-in-law Marc was cutting wood at the rear of our property last Thursday. His mum Sandra was walking along the property when she heard the dog down the hole," Mr Need said.
"Dad immediately called the SES for help and they responded straight away."
Unfortunately, darkness was setting in and the SES members made the decision to postpone the rescue mission until the next day.
"They arrived back here first thing in the morning and started the operation," Mr Need said.
"It was a straight drop of 20 metres and James Treloar was winched down and rescued the dog.
"I was really happy to see that she was okay and even more thrilled to have her back. I was very impressed with the SES members, they were great. The response from them was amazing as was the rescue.
"I can't praise them enough. I really want to thank all the crews and everyone from within the SES and the community who called out to the property over the whole week she was missing and helped out. I'm very grateful for all their support and assistance."
Mr Need said he was surprised he hadn't found Kiara earlier, but now believes she may have been unconscious, or too weak during the first few days to respond to calls from rescue parties.
"It seems strange that we walked the area, rode motorbikes and drove cars through there, but found nothing. We even yelled down those holes several times, but she mustn't have been able to respond," he said.
"The frustrating thing is she probably would have heard us calling out her name, which would have been very stressful for her."
Mr Need said it was also difficult to pinpoint what made Kiara wander off into the forest.
"She normally doesn't venture too far from my side," he said.
"We only moved onto the property a few weeks prior so it was all new territory for her. I suspect she may have been chasing a rabbit or something and fell straight into the hole."
Following the rescue, Kiara spent a night at the veterinary clinic on an intravenous drip and before she arrived home, Mr Need had already started making certain there were no more incidents like this one.
"I didn't waste any time building a nice little enclosure for her on the property to prevent it ever happening again," he said.
Mr Need said he was thankful for the happy ending, meaning he now shares a special deja vu story with his grandfather, who also lost a dog down a mine shaft at the same property 20 years ago.
That dog was also rescued by the SES.