A dog who went missing for 72 hours is back in his Missouri home after he was found buried alive inside a sinkhole.
Fire crews dug Lisa Van Valkenburgh's beloved 12-year-old German shepherd out of the roadside void in Parkville, north of Kansas City, on January 30.
The dog, named Maverick, had wandered off three days earlier while being let out to relieve himself, Fox 4KC reported. After searching for her absent pooch without success, Van Valkenburgh feared he had run off to a nearby lake.
"My biggest fear is he had drowned," Van Valkenburgh told CNN. "I was afraid if he fell into the water he wouldn't have the strength in his legs to pull himself out."
Van Valkenburgh posted on Facebook that she decided to have one last look for Maverick, who she adopted after he was hit by a car and got caught in a raccoon trap. As she walked down a nearby road, Van Valkenburgh was stunned to hear a faint howl coming from underground.
"I walked down and back and walked on this side and came right here and heard a moan, like a bark," Van Valkenburgh told Fox 4KC.
She discovered Maverick, weakened and firmly stuck in mud about 5 feet below the surface. Although it's unclear how long he spent trapped inside the sinkhole, he may have fallen right after walking past his invisible dog fence.
Van Valkenburgh's husband and son tried to release Maverick, but they feared the ground would completely cave in on him. So Southern Platte Fire Department crews were called. Together with local police officers, the firefighters spent three hours digging out the dog, who by then was severely dehydrated and lethargic.
"They were awesome," Van Valkenburgh told CNN. "They had to dig out under Maverick to release the suction the clay had on him."
The injured pooch was rushed to emergency vets and given antibiotics for three days. While he suffered a broken tooth, skin irritation and bladder issues, Maverick regained enough strength to return home on Wednesday, and Van Valkenburgh said he's slowly getting back to normal.
"He is doing great; eating, playing, back to his little defiant self, love my boy! Thank you everyone for all your kind words and prayers," Van Valkenburgh said, adding that she'll now be using a leash rather than the invisible fence to keep him in the yard.
Authorities said the sinkhole formed after a leaking rusted pipe washed soil away. Platte County director of public works Greg Sager said a new pipe was on order, and would be installed in a week or two.
Also on HuffPost: