The Most Amazing Pet Survival Story of 2018

When two dogs went missing for 21 days, their owner feared the worst. Until she checked an unusual location.

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- Posted on Nov 20, 2018

Ziva and Zeus

Ziva and Zeus were playful puppy companions. No one guessed quite how far their playfulness would take them, though. In 2018, the two pups wandered away from their backyard and disappeared.

Jessica Donges, the owner of the pair, was heartbroken.

“I was at work when they got out and received a call from my husband telling me the bad news,” said Jessica. “I came home immediately and we started looking all night for them. By the end of the night, I was hysterical.”

To Jessica, it was a given that dogs would be part of her family. Two years after marrying, her and her husband got Ziva. One year later, Zeus joined the family.

“Ziva was an amazing puppy. We knew immediately we wanted another dog,” said Jessica. “About a year later, I surprised my husband with Zeus for his birthday. Ziva was hesitant about Zeus in the beginning, but they quickly became best friends.”

The two became so close that two years later, they felt safe enough to crawl out of a hole in the fence in the backyard.

Jessica started searching immediately. She posted on social media, hung flyers around the neighborhood and talked to neighbors.

But after nearly three weeks with no sign of the dogs, Jessica was beginning to lose hope. She’d looked everywhere with no luck, so she decided to retrace her steps.

“I went to re-explore the abandoned missile silo located 200 yards behind our backyard again,” Jessica said.

She explored the silo, eventually finding a closed garage door. When she opened it she found a hole. Inside the hole? Ziva and Zeus.

“They were standing in this huge hole filled with about 6 inches of water,” Jessica said. “I knew I could not lift them out of the hole alone without injuring them, so I called 9-1-1.”

Firefighters and police worked together to get the dogs out of the hole. Ziva and Zeus were happy and eager to play. Their frolicking was interrupted only when Jessica took them to an emergency veterinary clinic. 

Besides being extremely emaciated, both dogs were in good condition.

“The veterinarian and the entire staff was in shock of how well they were doing,” Jessica said. “Given their situation, they were both in good condition. It could have been a lot worse.”

Because of their ordeal, the pair were nominated for and eventually won Nationwide’s Hambone Award®. The award celebrates the strangest pet insurance claims the company receives. Every month, animals are nominated, and the overall winner is determined by popular vote. Nationwide donates $10,000 to the veterinary center that treated the winning pets.

The dogs were treated for their wounds and are expected to make a full recovery.

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