Wilton firefighters free dog stuck in tree stump

They say cats have nine lives, but one dog in Wilton has earned himself another one following a dramatic rescue by firefighters.

Emergency services received a call for assistance on Saturday, Oct. 5, at 11:51 a.m. that a dog had gotten its head stuck in the stump of a dead tree and couldn’t get it out.

Wilton Fire Department Station 2, police and animal control responded to Boas Lane near the Town Forest, where the dog was stuck.

The dog had been out for a walk with its owner, according to Wilton Fire Lt. Tom Cassin, when it chased a chipmunk and managed to lodge its head inside the stump of a dead tree. Cassin did not know the dog’s name or breed but described it as a brown, medium-sized, short-haired dog. “You couldn’t see how the dog got in there,” he said.

Attempts to free the dog were made by the dog’s owner and other concerned dog walkers, including an off-duty Stamford fire lieutenant, but they were unable to move him, Cassin said.

Complicating the situation, the dead tree where the dog was stuck had a large branch above it, known as a “widowmaker,” which was hanging precariously about 25 feet over the dog. “We were worried that section of broken tree could fall on the rescuers, injuring them or the dog,” Cassin said. “The tree was rotted from top to bottom so you didn’t know what it was going to do.”

The off-duty Stamford fire lieutenant, whose name was not identified, suggested moving the tree with a hydraulic extrication tool, but rescuers decided that wouldn’t work because of the tree’s root structure, Cassin said.

Instead, rescuers used a smaller, battery-operated “spreader” and “cutter” hydraulic tools to chip away at one of the root shafts surrounding the dog’s head. “One advantage of the battery-operated tools is they are quiet and we didn’t want to create any loud noises to panic the dog,” Cassin said.

While clearing the root, rescuers were careful to move the tree as little as possible. “We were afraid if the tree collapsed or we used a chainsaw, the tree could snap and kill the dog,” Cassin said.

When the root was cleared, rescuers worked as a team to release the dog, Cassin explained. He put his hands inside the tree to push the dog’s head down, while Wilton firefighter Michael Blatchley lifted the dog up and a police officer tugged on the dog’s leash, freeing the dog from the stump.

“The dog was uninjured and was smiling,” Cassin said.