Hole lot of love…

A distraught dog owner has been reunited with her beloved gundog after he was found trapped in a sinkhole two days after disappearing.

Twenty-seven-year old Megan Moody was left devastated after her five-year-old working gundog Ralph disappeared while out walking in Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales earlier this year.

“My parents and I took the dogs up on the moors for a walk and headed towards the high point of Fremington Edge,” said Megan. “My dogs Rusty and Ralph never stray too far from me and tend to stay quite close. As we were heading back down I saw Rusty coming towards me but no sign of Ralph. He had vanished and I instantly knew something was wrong.”

After a few hours of searching the area Megan went home and created a lost dog post on Facebook in the hope he would be found and contacted the local gamekeeper for help.

“He came out straight away with lamping equipment and we spent hours looking for Ralph. Because he knew the moors so well we were able to cover the area but there was no sign or sound of him anywhere.”

Megan’s friends and family then spent the weekend searching for the German Wired-Haired Pointer cross Springer Spaniel. “By Saturday evening my Facebook post had been widely shared and local residents, walkers and cyclists joined in to help with the search,” she said. “I was totally overwhelmed by the interest snd support in finding Ralph. It really highlights the power of social media and the positive effect it can have.”

As darkness fell over Swaledale on Sunday evening and with freezing temperatures on the moors Megan began to feel despondent. She admitted it was the local gamekeeper’s perseverance and an abundance of community support which brought her a ray of hope in finding her beloved gundog.

“No one wanted to give up and although we didn’t have any signs of finding him we just kept going,” the said. “At one point I had 15 people in my kitchen, drinking tea and planning what we could do to try and find Ralph. The local keeper hadn’t given up and his search to find him continued into Sunday night. He went out with the lamping equipment again as he knew the moors like the back of his hand, it gave me hope that something would happen and we may find him.”

Miraculously, after two days of searching, Ralph was found by the same keeper who went back to Fremington Edge on Monday morning for one final search. As he was heading back to his truck, he heard a faint whimper and then the distant sound of a dog barking. On further investigation Ralph was found trapped inside a deep narrow sinkhole thought to have been caused by the summer flash floods in Swaledale.

Megan was thrilled. “I couldn’t believe they had found him and he was alive and okay,” she said. “When I got there all I could see was his muddy face staring up at me. It was such a relief. He was crying with excitement and very pleased to see me.”

With the help of another keeper, who arrived with specialised ropes tied onto a quad bike, they were able to drop down into the deep cavity, put a lead on Ralph and hoist him out of the sinkhole. “Both keepers were amazing and knew what to do,” said Megan. “They had him out in no time and apart from being covered in mud, he was absolutely fine. In fact, he shook himself off, had a quick cuddle with me and then carried on as if nothing had happened!”

Co-ordinator Sonya Wiggins, for the Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group, works with 75 gamekeepers across the Yorkshire Dales. She was keen to highlight the vital role of a gamekeeper and praise their ability to work under pressure and think on their feet. “I wanted to share this heartwarming story on our Facebook page as it reflects their dedication, stamina and devotion of our keepers. They are on the ground 365 days a year and are always there to help as they have specialist equipment and know the land, which is an advantage when you have a vast area to cover.”

Megan and Ralph are now happily back on the beating line and enjoyed the last few days of the season. “There’s no doubt Ralph wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t had the help and experience from our local keepers,” said Megan. “I’m really grateful to them and everyone who shared my post on social media and gave up their time to join the search.”

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