Location: Corpus Christi, Texas
Date: July 27, 1993
Tom Fowler owns a printing shop in Corpus Christi, Texas. A decorated Vietnam veteran, Tom has a deep appreciation for life--all life, whether animal or human. During June 1993, Tom caught sight of a stray dog walking down the street in front of his print shop. Tom had seen lots of strays in the area, but this one was different; this one was leading three tiny puppies! Each afternoon for several days, Tom saw the proud mother lead her newborn puppies down the street.
One hot, dry afternoon, Tom watched the mother go by, and saw the puppies lingering near a storm sewer drain. The drain was meant to catch excess rainwater and remove it from the road, so it was a hole in the curb, leading to an underground drainage system. On this afternoon, Tom saw the dog family, then returned to his work. Sometime later, he looked up to see the mother dog crouched in front of the drain, with only two puppies at her side. Tom watched as the mother barked and whined into the sewer; he realized that one of the puppies had fallen into the sewer.
Tom is an animal lover, and felt a special affinity for the worried mother and trapped puppy. He decided to go outside and see what he could do to help. The strays were wild dogs, however, so when Tom approached, the mother ran off, taking her remaining two puppies with her. Tom knelt by the drain in the curb. He could hear the puppy whining, so he leaned his head way over, almost to the ground, and began calling softly to the little animal, saying, "Here, puppy, puppy, puppy." Tom could hear the little creature, but he couldn't see the dog. Then he noticed that there was a manhole cover on the adjacent sidewalk. Using some tools from his print shop, he pried the manhole cover off and looked down into the sewer.
What Tom saw was an open area (where the curb drain emptied into the underground system) and a pipe leading from the open area, which would bring any excess water into the sewer system. Tom estimated that the pipe was approximately ten inches in diameter, and that the scared little puppy had crawled into the pipe. Tom was soon joined by his seven-year-old daughter, Aspasia, and both father and daughter continued to call to the puppy, but with no result.
Tom and Aspasia agreed that they needed to do anything they could to keep the stray alive. So each day they prepared a bowl of dry dog food and a bowl of water, and Tom lowered his young daughter into the sewer. Aspasia placed the food in the dry open area of the sewer, and called for the puppy, but each day, when they removed the manhole cover, the food they had left the day before disappeared. Tom and his daughter were happy that they were able to feed the puppy, but they wanted to do more: They wanted to rescue the little stray! Tom was also worried about the weather. The puppy was safe as long as it continued to be hot and dry. He knew, though, that if rain came, water would rush into the sewer and carry the puppy away--through the pipes of the sewer system! The little dog would surely drown then!
Aspasia was frustrated, too. She was happy to feed the dog, but she wished the puppy would come out while she was leaving the food. She wanted to pet and hug the animal, and make sure that it was okay. Together, Tom and Aspasia tried to think of ways to rescue the puppy. They set a trap for the dog, leaving some food under a box resting on a stick. When the puppy went under the box to get the food, they hoped, he would knock the stick down and the box would fall over him, trapping him until Tom and Aspasia arrived. However, this was one smart puppy--he ate the food around the box, but not the food under the box! The little dog outsmarted the very people who were trying to save his life!
As a week passed, Tom tried various avenues for help. He called the Humane Society and the Animal Rescue squad, but no one was able to get to the puppy. The weather continued hot and clear, but Tom and Aspasia knew that rain could come at any time.
Finally, in desperation, Tom placed a call to a popular local radio talk-show personality, Berney Seal. Berney is the host of a morning program--"Breakfast with Berney"-- at KEYS. Berney and his staff remember that Tom called on a rather quiet morning, so they broadcasted his telephone conversation. Tom told Berney that he knew the trapped puppy was not the biggest news of the day, but that he had run out of ideas and wondered if anyone listening could help him. Berney sensed Tom's dedication to rescuing the puppy, and quickly threw his support behind Tom. Berney continued to talk about the puppy's plight after Tom's call, and asked for any listener with a rescue idea to call in. Since Berney's show was so popular, the switchboard almost immediately lit up like a Christmas tree. People called with all sorts of different ideas, but Berney and Tom didn't think any of them would really work.
Meanwhile, about twelve miles away, Chris Risk was listening to "Breakfast with Berney" when Tom's call came in. Chris is a dog breeder and trainer, and the owner of ten-year-old Annie Fannie. Annie Fannie is a Catahoula Leopard Stock dog who will retrieve anything Chris asks her to. Chris decided that she and Annie had to try and help, so when Berney broadcast the location of the trapped puppy, Chris hopped into her truck and took off with Annie.
When they arrived at the sewer opposite Tom's print shop, a small crowd had already gathered. Tom stood by the open manhole cover, and continued to call to the puppy. When Chris approached him, she introduced herself and offered Annie's services. Tom was a bit skeptical, but Chris told him that Annie would retrieve anything Chris told her to. Tom thought Chris' plan was worth a try, so they began the rescue attempt. After instructing onlookers to remove a manhole cover across the street (in case the puppy made its way through the pipe to the other side), Tom and Chris lowered Annie into the sewer. Once she was safely in the sewer, Chris sent her on a mission with the words, "Go get the puppy, Annie!"
Annie bravely charged into the ten-inch pipe, and the onlookers lost sight of her. Tom and Chris heard nothing, so they yelled for the people across the street to watch for the puppy on their side. Some time passed before Tom and Chris, peering down into the open sewer, began to see Annie's tail in the pipe opening. Then, before their astonished eyes, Annie appeared, backing out slowly, holding the missing puppy by the scruff of the neck!
As the gathered crowd cheered, Tom and Chris carefully lifted Annie Fannie--still holding the tiny puppy--out of the sewer. They brought the puppy into Tom's print shop. In his next call to the radio station, Tom reported that they now had a cute male puppy looking for a home! Berney congratulated them all, and one of his staff members recommended that they name the puppy Stinky--since he'd been pulled from a sewer.
After the rescue, Animal Control officers searched the neighborhood and were finally able to find Stinky's mother and her two other puppies. Tom is delighted that all of the dogs have been adopted. Stinky was treated for a rat bite, then adopted by Becky Muro--a woman who works for Berney--and her two young sons. Becky remembers that she and her sons had been looking for a puppy to adopt, and when Stinky's rescue took place, they felt as if God had said, "Here's your puppy!" They love the dog, whom they've renamed Rimshot, and can't imagine their lives without him.
Aspasia is sorry that she didn't get to keep Stinky/Rimshot, because she loves dogs so much. The Fowlers have other pets, however, and Aspasia knows that she can't keep all the dogs! In a mini-reunion, Aspasia and Tom were delighted to play with Sinky/Rimshot and Annie Fannie. Tom and Aspasia are proud of their efforts to save the puppy, but both feel very strongly that Annie Fannie is the real hero of this story.