Just as Wichita officials were holding a news conference Thursday to announce their efforts to save a dog had failed, a firefighter saw wet canine nostrils appear in a tiny hole in concrete.
It was the 100-pound mutt trapped in a culvert next to a drainage ditch.
The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/Hvl7j9) reported that the news conference broke up suddenly as the firefighter called for help. Crews already suited up in scuba gear leapt back into the water-filled ditch to search for Taz, and firefighters started up the concrete saws.
Once they cut a large enough hole, one of the scuba divers stuck a hand in to grab Taz and was promptly bit. But minutes later, the 6-year-old dog was free.
The emotional owner, John Huy, 79, promptly gave a news conference to thank everyone who helped save his dog, which he described as "part pit, part lab, and part I don't know what."
The drama started around 10:30 a.m. when Huy, a retired aviation engineer, took a walk in the rain with Taz. When the rain increased, Huy and Taz took cover under a bridge. Huy said the flashing lightning made Taz "fidgety," and he let the dog off his leash. It was a mistake Huy later swore to 20 firefighters "I'll never make again."
Taz jumped into the water flowing under the bridge. When another bolt flashed in the sky, Taz scrambled under a ledge along the sidewalk under the overpass.
As the water rose, the ledge closed off, and Taz backed up, suddenly trapped in the small air pocket left to him.
With the water rising still higher, Huy and a bystander jumped into the water and tried to coax the terrified Taz from the air pocket. The men's struggles prompted someone to call 911 and report that a car was submerged.
Fire crews didn't hesitate to help the men after learning there was no car, and no human being to rescue. Capt. Michael Wells acknowledged that eight fire trucks, plus police directing traffic merely to rescue a dog, was indeed a significant effort.
"But we understand that pets are very, very important to people's lives," he said. "We're glad to be here. It's been a good day."