'Hero' Veteran Saves Puppy Trapped Alone After Falling Down 100-Feet Ravine

A veteran in Ohio has been hailed a "hero" by a local animal shelter after he volunteered to rescue a trapped puppy.

Joe Lawhorn responded to a social media call-out from Ross County Humane Society, after it received a call about the fallen puppy. The 8-week-old mixed breed puppy had fallen down a ravine 80-100 feet, landing on a slate ledge by a waterfall.

Staff from the shelter initially attended the scene but were unable to retrieve the scared puppy alone.

"These puppies were actually supposed to be coming to us yesterday. We have a program where if owners have unplanned litters, we will take them for the families and spay/neuter their other dogs for free," shelter director Jenn Thomas told Newsweek.

"These puppies were to be part of that program. The owner called us to let us know that she had been unable to find one of the puppies so she went looking for it and could hear it crying down in the ravine."

After two staff members attended the situation, they soon realized just how dangerous it could be and managed to only descend halfway, returning exhausted and covered in mud.

Ravine
Image of the ravine the puppy fell down. Ross County Humane Society

"The hero of the day was a friend of the shelter, local veteran and professional cyclist Joe Lawhorn," said the shelter.

According to a social media post by Lawhorn, he immediately responded to the shelter's social media plea after seeing it. He set off with son Lincoln in his car to attend the scene as fast as possible. "I threw the man cub in the Jeep and off we went," he wrote. "Luckily for me, Lincoln knew Amber and was comfortable with her while I climbed down to get the puppy."

Joe and rescued puppy
Joe and the rescued puppy. Ross County Humane Society

"[The] problem wasn't getting down, as I looked up holding this tiny puppy, [I thought] how do I climb out of here one handed holding this thing. Needless to say we climbed out," he wrote. Lawhorn attributed his affinity for "alternative X-game style sports" as the key to his successful retrieval.

According to his wife, "if anyone was insane enough to try it" she knew it would be him. "I left the phone in my Jeep as my wife was sending me screenshots of the post asking 'you have any ideas'. Little did she know, her husband had just gone over to the cliff to retrieve the puppy," Lawhorn wrote.

"When Joe got to him he didn't try to run or wasn't scared but I think he was cold, exhausted and dehydrated as we don't know how long he was down there. His gums were white when he got back up to staff," explained Thomas.

Now, the shelter has named the puppy Kenda and it was transported to the North Fork Animal Clinic by staff to be checked properly. Kenda is now back at the shelter.

Litter of puppies
The litter of puppies at the shelter. Ross County Humane Society

Kenda will soon be available for adoption, alongside the other puppies in the litter who have been named in honor of Joe with the names of his cycling sponsors: Kenda, Rudy, Irwin, Marque and Fuji.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 6.3 million animals enter shelters each year, with 3.1 million of those being dogs. Lawhorn has urged people to consider adopting or fostering from the "swamped" shelter. "If you can't do either of them, please consider donating," he suggested in a post.

This rescue is the veteran's second in the space of a few months, after he saved a puppy abandoned in a national park just weeks ago.

"He actually adopted the last one after he found it in the freezing cold on a bike ride," said Thomas. "He has been a friend of the shelter for many years and has adopted quite a few misfit dogs from us including one who had been shot with an arrow, a pit bull who had sat in another shelter for years that we ended up bringing to our shelter a couple of years ago and a completely emaciated puppy."

Update 03/16/22, 4:10 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from Jenn Thomas and pictures.