BUTTE — Pete Sorini and Gina Evans were near the end of their ride on the Butte 100 race course Easter weekend when they noticed one of the three dogs they brought with them was missing.
They turned around and went back down the trail, looking for Griff the wirehaired pointing griffon. They called his name and whistled. They rode up and down trail 9 and throughout the Pipestone area for hours, but they couldn’t find Sorini’s dog.
Little did they know, Griff had fallen 25 feet down a mineshaft just a few feet off the trail. He’d be there alone, with no food or water, for the next four days.
Evans and Sorini went up again together on Easter, and then on separate searches on the next Monday and Tuesday.
Sorini, a doctor who practices in Anaconda, put an ad in the newspaper and an announcement on the radio.
Resolutely, Sorini returned to the trail that Tuesday evening.
“I retraced the steps again, going back and forth along the same stretch of trail Gina and I had been on,” he said. “I saw a depression in the ground, but I didn’t know if it was a sinkhole or a mineshaft. Then I saw another depression on other side of the trail. It was a hole and I saw something move in the hole. At first I thought it was a deer. I looked closer, and I thought, oh my God, it’s Griff, I just about fainted. It was the most amazing thing. I could barely talk.”
Remarkably, the dog had not only survived the fall but was uninjured.
Sorini spent a few minutes contemplating how to get his dog out of the hole by himself, but realized he could get stuck or cause the hole to cave in. He needed someone with rescue experience. Rod Alne was just the person.
Alne owns The Peak, a Butte company that teaches wilderness safety and rescue to private citizens and military personnel. Alne brought with him a full-body dog harness to hoist out Griff. He backed his truck up to the edge and tied off his rapelling rope on the hitch.
“He was probably 25 feet down,” Alne said. “I couldn’t tell how far it went down from there. The dog was down there for four days and I was nervous because I didn’t know how he’d react after being down there for so long. But he just stuck his head underneath my arm.”
Evans and Sorini pulled the dog out of the hole just after 10 p.m. as heavy snow began to fall.
“He drank six gallons of water and ate about 10 hot dogs I had there. I was traveling with hot dogs in hopes I’d find him,” he said. “Griff is the wonder dog.”
We had gone down that trail whistling and yelling, but we never heard a peep out of him. He was just whimpering a little bit. He’s not a complainer.”
Sorini said he’s thankful his dog made it out of the mineshaft, and he’s glad a child hadn’t fallen in the hole, which is only 10 feet off the trail.
The Bureau of Land Management plans to cordon off the shaft and eventually fill it in.
“Any time you’re hiking or doing any sort of recreating, including riding ATVs, you need to be cautious about the terrain that you’re in and keep an eye out for anything that might be a feature of an abandoned mine,” said David Abrams, a spokesman for the Butte BLM office. “There’s a lot out there underneath the surface in this area around here. We don’t always know (the mineshafts are) out there.”
Without Alne’s rescue skills and Evans’ dedication to the rescue and knowledge of the area, Sorini said Griff probably would have been lost forever.
“In the end, it’s an awesome story about a dog who’s cared for and loved,” Evans said. “And it shows that when an animal has the right home and the environment, he’ll try to fight and try to pull through.”