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Botanist Rescues Dog Trapped in 81-Foot Hole on Kaua‘i

November 7, 2019, 4:41 PM HST
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Botanist Adam Williams went rappelling Thursday morning, which isn’t abnormal for him. What he was looking for, however, was unique.

As a certified arborist with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), Williams is accustomed to climbing up trees and down cliffs in search of rare plants.

Williams was enlisted to rappel into an 81-foot deep hole in the Koloa section of the Lihu‘e-Koloa Forest Reserve on Kaua‘i Thursday, a DLNR press release said.

But instead of plant life, the orange-clad Williams prepared to lower himself into the dark, dank hole to do something entirely outside his job description — rescue a dog named Orange.

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A one-year-old Catahoula hunting dog, Orange, fell into the pit last Saturday, Nov. 2. Fortunately, his owner, Tarvan Orsatelli, had a GPS tracker on him and was able to locate him quickly.

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Over the past five days Orsatelli, friends and family members lowered food and water into the hole, while trying to figure out how to extract the dog. They knew Orange was alive due to the occasional whimpers or howls they’d hear from him.

It’s believed the vertical, tubular-shaped cavern is part of an old water irrigation system, the DLNR release said. Initially, the Kaua‘i Fire Department was called to help, but with ladders only 25-feet long, that rescue plan was quickly scrapped.

That was when Williams and his boss, DOFAW Kaua‘i Branch Manager Sheri S. Mann, entered the picture. Since the hole is on DOFAW land, Mann and her team began thinking about what they could do to help.

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Thursday morning, after Mann and Williams surveyed the scene, it was decided it would be safe to send Williams, an experienced climber, into the hole to rescue Orange. With a half dozen people watching from above, Williams rigged his climbing gear, tied off to a stout guava tree and began lowering himself down. For safety, he carried a radio and air monitoring device to the bottom with him.

Within a few minutes, Williams stepped onto the bottom and found a pooch very excited to see him.

“He was really happy to see me,” Williams said, “after he got over the shock of being down in a hole for a week.”

Williams bundled Orange into a small canvas bag and a couple of men up top began slowly pulling him to safety. Williams says he could see the dog kicking the sides of the duffel but once up top, Orange quickly exited the bag, shook himself off and seemed a little perplexed by the small crowd on hand to witness his return.

Orsatelli said Orange has a few scrapes and clearly lost some weight during his ordeal, but was not much worse for the wear after tumbling into the 81-foot shaft.

Animal control officer Kewehi Harris of the Kaua‘i Humane Society was on hand to take Orange in to be checked by a veterinarian. Like all who witnessed the rescue, she said was impressed with the dog’s relatively good condition.

For Williams, it was a departure from a regular workday, though most people don’t consider going up and down ropes on sheer cliffs or towering trees “normal.” Orsatelli said Orange is shaping up to be one of his best hunting dogs, and now he has a special place in his heart for him — along with Adam and the others who helped in the successful rescue of the dog named Orange.

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