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Animal rescue far from 'cliche of cat stuck in tree' for these Kansas firefighters

Kansas City Star logoKansas City Star 9/20/2020 By Robert A. Cronkleton, The Kansas City Star

It was far from an ordinary call that firefighters from Northwest Consolidated Fire District in Johnson County received shortly before noon Saturday.

“We occasionally get animal rescue calls about a dog chasing geese on the ice or the cliche of a cat stuck in a tree or dogs trapped under porches,” said Lt. Richard Stevens with the fire department. “We’ve never had a large animal rescue like this. It was a first for us.”

The animal in peril was Cheyenne, a horse stuck shoulder deep in mud at Kill Creek Park, 11670 Homestead Lane, in rural Johnson County.

“A couple out riding horses on the trails at the park tried crossing what they thought was a hard-bottom creek but it was soft mud,” Stevens said. “One horse got submerged up to her shoulder, which rendered it pretty much immobile.”

Firefighters responded to the park along with Johnson County Park Police and a vet, and over the next few hours they worked to free the horse by using precision rope rescue techniques, Stevens said.

At one point, they brought in larger straps to make Cheyenne more comfortable, he said. Firefighters would do as much work as the horse would allow them to do before she became fatigued and needed to rest. They’d start rescue efforts again after she regained strength.

“They worked at the pace of the animal,” Stevens said. “They tried not to push it into more of an unneeded panic or stress than it already had.”

During the rescue firefighters tried to break the suction of the mud by using shovels to dig away some of the mud surrounding the horse’s legs. The horse’s owners helped by talking to Cheyenne to try to keep her calm.

“They had a long relationship with the animal,” Stevens said. “It was a stressful situation for them, too.”

After about four hours, lots of manpower and a “ton of determination from Cheyenne,” rescuers were able to free her. The horse was uninjured by the ordeal.

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