Blind, deaf Shih Tzu rescued from storm sewer - Omaha.com
Published Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 9:29 am
Blind, deaf Shih Tzu rescued from storm sewer

Tippy the Shih Tzu went for a rather unusual walk Tuesday morning near his southwest Omaha home, a journey that left his family shaking their heads.

The owner, Albert Armendariz, said he “absolutely couldn't believe” his eyes when 14-year-old Tippy disappeared down a storm sewer drain in front of their house at 7906 S. 136th St. during his morning bathroom break. Armendariz said he was with the dog outside about 8 a.m. when it suddenly slipped into a sewer opening on the street.

“Every morning Tippy goes out and does his business, but because of the snow — everything was white — he probably couldn't see the (sewer) opening,” he said. “I could see his two little front paws grabbing the street, but he couldn't catch himself and just fell in.”

Armendariz said Tippy has trouble seeing because he has cataracts and also is “about half deaf.” He and his wife, Kim, have had the dog since it was a puppy, even before their two sons were born.

The dog landed about 5-feet below street level, just out of reach. At first, Tippy stayed right by the sewer opening while Armendariz talked to him and waited for help.

He had called 911. A dispatcher called the Nebraska Humane Society. They suggested Armendariz speak with the engineers for his SID, or sewer improvement district. The engineers advised him to call Utility Service Group, an Omaha sewer cleaning company.

Tippy, meanwhile, decided to try and find his own way out and began wandering along a 24-inch sewer pipe that runs down 136th Street. The dog was nowhere in sight when a crew from the utility company arrived about 9:30 a.m.

Jason Nelson of Utility Service Group said he and his co-workers began lifting manhole covers and going underground to look for the 15-pound dog. After finding Tippy with a spotlight, the crew snaked a special camera underground.

“We could see him, so we used the camera to try and nudge him toward an opening,” Nelson said, “but he was just sitting there scared and wouldn't budge.”

Nelson, at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, climbed into the sewer pipe. He estimates Tippy had wandered 300 to 400 feet from the spot where he entered the sewer.

“It's lucky the pipe is 24 inches around or I don't know what we would've done,” he said. “I had to crawl about 25 feet (through the pipe) to get him. I just grabbed it and was hoping he wouldn't bite me.

“It's not the easiest thing to crawl backwards 25 feet out of a 24-inch pipe, but we made it.”

Armendariz said he was “very grateful” when Nelson emerged with his dog. His 11-year-old son, Kyle, boarded a school bus not knowing the dog's fate.

“I didn't know what I'd say to the family,” Armendariz said. “I thought we'd lost Tippy because he'd been down there a couple of hours, and I thought he would just fall asleep and freeze to death.”

Armendariz said the dog came out in unexpectedly good shape with no injuries, not even wet. By noon, Tippy was in his bed and resting comfortably with some dog biscuits.

And his owner had decided to let Tippy do his business in the backyard.

“I had to email my boss and say my dog was lost in the sewer and I was taking the morning off,” Armendariz said. “He's probably never heard that one before.”

Nelson and the crew refused to bill Tippy's family for the rescue.

“Because of the snow, we weren't really doing anything but working around the shop anyway,” Nelson said. “We're just glad we could help.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1272, kevin.cole@owh.com

Contact the writer: Kevin Cole

kevin.cole@owh.com    |   402-444-1272    |  

Kevin Cole covers workings of police, courts and government and writes features about interesting subjects in Omaha and the surrounding counties.

Read more related stories
Owners of exotic dance bar deny prostitution allegations
More Nebraskans are electing to vote early
Nebraska's U.S. Senate candidates stick to familiar topics at Omaha forum
Kelly: Started at a dining room table, Home Instead thriving at 20 with $1B in annual revenue
19-year-old killed in one-vehicle crash at 72nd & Shirley
8% of alcohol sellers checked in Omaha area last week sold booze to minors
OPS bus, SUV collide; no students onboard at the time
Waitress who served alcohol to teen before fatal crash gets jail time, probation
Lori Jenkins, charged as accessory in 4 murders, waives speedy trial
Iowa State servers hacked, nearly 30,000 SSNs at risk
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
2nd District House race: After 8 terms, Lee Terry knows how D.C. works — and doesn't
Bellevue man is killed at Minnesota dance hall after South Sudanese basketball tourney
Spring corn planting still sputters in Nebraska, Iowa, other key states
Nebraska banking and finance director to retire
Gov. Heineman vetoes bill to ease restrictions on nurse practitioners
U.S. Senate race: State Auditor Mike Foley defends Shane Osborn against ad campaign
Public defender to represent Nikko Jenkins in sentencing
Mid-America Center on track for lower operating loss
Bluffs City Council approves dozens of new numbered street lights
National Law Enforcement Memorial Week set for May
Ted Cruz backs Pete Ricketts' campaign for governor
Omahan charged with 5th-offense DUI after street race causes rollover
2 blocks of Grover Street closed
Safety board report blames pilot error in 2013 crash that killed UNO student, passenger
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Kelly: Started at a dining room table, Home Instead thriving at 20 with $1B in annual revenue
The idea that Paul Hogan had studied and then hatched at his mother's table was that older people, rather than moving in with relatives or to an assisted-living center, would much prefer to stay home instead.
Breaking Brad: Into the claw machine! Florida kid follows Lincoln kid's lead
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a child climbed inside a claw machine. Hey, Florida kid: Nobody likes a copycat.
Breaking Brad: Even Chuck Hassebrook's throwing mud!
The Nebraska campaigns have turned so ugly, Democrat Chuck Hassebrook lobbed unfounded accusations at an imaginary opponent.
Breaking Brad: Kraft wiener recall is business opportunity for TD Ameritrade Park
Instead of returning the wieners, TD Ameritrade Park is calling them "cheese dogs" and charging double.
Breaking Brad: Photos with the Easter Bunny are so 2010
In a sign of the times, most kids ran out of patience waiting for a photo with the Easter Bunny at the mall, just snapped a selfie and went home.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Tokyo Sushi
$5 for $10 or $10 for $20 toward All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Purchase
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »