Elvis found alive in Perkins Township sewer pipe

PERKINS TWP. In a muddy field behind United Auto Workers Local 913, amid the slush and wilted sumac,
May 24, 2010



In a muddy field behind United Auto Workers Local 913, amid the slush and wilted sumac, Elvis rose from the dead last week.

"Everyone was saying he had to be dead," Erik Laughlin said. "They said there was no way he was alive. But I had to find out for myself."

Elvis, Laughlin's prized hunting dog, had been trapped in a subterranean sewer pipe for four days.

Sandusky police told the dog's owners, Laughlin and Justin Wolery, they couldn't help. The Erie County Sheriff's office referred them to the Perkins Fire Department. The Perkins Fire Department hung up on them.

By the time excavators arrived at the site later in the week, everyone presumed the dog was dead.

"We thought there was no way he was alive," said Dave Kastor, an employee of Franklin Sanitation, which helped with the rescue. "With the snow showers last week, we thought the pipes had to have filled up with water. We thought he was gone for sure."

The story began the Saturday night before Thanksgiving, when Laughlin and two friends went on a raccoon hunt.

They began at about 10:30 p.m., but by 11 p.m. Laughlin's two black and tan coonhounds, Elvis and Annie, had chased a raccoon into a sewer pipe behind the field.

The pipe stretches more than 1,000 feet from one field to another, and along the way it narrows from 12 to 10 inches.

"Finally, around midnight, Annie came backing out of the side of the pipe she went into it," Laughlin said, wiggling his body like a dog maneuvering backwards through a tight space. "Elvis never came out, though. But we could hear him barking from the other end of the pipe. That's when we started calling around."

After the police and fire departments shunned them, Wolery called friends to get farming equipment to dig the dog out.

By the time they acquired a backhoe, however, Elvis had stopped barking. Without knowing exactly where he was, Laughlin and Wolery feared they might crush the dog accidentally, so they decided to come back the next morning.

On Sunday the duo contacted Paul Fox, who owns Paul Fox & Sons Excavating, to help them. But Fox's camera could travel only 250 feet into the pipe before getting stuck.

"It was like 16 or 17 degrees at night, and with him in the water and it being that cold, everyone assumed he was dead," Laughlin said.

But Laughlin refused to give up. On Monday and Tuesday, despite working 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shifts, Laughlin came for 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes after work to search for Elvis.

On Wednesday he called Franklin Sanitation, which it turned out, had a camera that could better navigate the turns inside the pipe. About 800 feet into the pipe, however, the camera got stuck.

Luckily, the company had a piece of equipment that could locate the camera from above ground.

According to Kastor, the locator found the camera, and he dug into the ground and broke the pipe to retrieve it. By sheer luck, Elvis lay trapped 20 feet from the camera, struggling to keep his head above the icy water.

"He was weak. Real weak," Kastor said. "He could barely move."

Laughlin called it a "miracle."

"Four days?" he said. " Four days? To survive four days, with those temperatures -- that's just nuts."

Laughlin and Wolery took him for treatment after the rescue.

"After a few IVs and some TLC, he was fine," Laughlin said Wednesday from his garage, as he played with the dog. "He's still doing fine. He's just pissed. He wants to hunt."

As Elvis Presley would say, Elvis the pet truly ain't nothin' but a hound dog.