Volcano resident Marta Caproni and her boyfriend were walking Romeo and Tommy, two of her family’s four Labrador retriever littermates, Saturday afternoon when Romeo ran off and mysteriously disappeared for the night. After the two tracked Romeo’s whining the next day, a rescue team found him safe and sound after he fell 20 feet into a crack in the earth at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.
Caproni said they let the 4-year-old chocolate Lab and his brother run off-leash as they typically do in the Volcano Golf and Country Club subdivision. “They typically are obedient,” she said. “They are trained to respond to voice commands. Unfortunately, it is not the way it went.”
The Capronis, from a small town in Central Italy, have lived in the subdivision, across from the entrance to the park, for 15 years.
“We had no idea that to the left of this gravel area, there is a major crack in the earth about 20 feet deep,” she said. “Romeo went jumping around this area and disappeared. We couldn’t tell he had fallen in.”
Caproni said her boyfriend kept searching, while she returned to the house to get flashlights and bring Tommy back.
It was about 8 p.m. when she got back to the location where her boyfriend was when they noticed a crack in the ground.
“We had no idea,” Caproni said. “We do know there are cracks and lava tubes all over this area, which is why park rangers say to stay on the path. Some lava tubes are covered. You think you might be stepping on terrain, but you are stepping on a hole.”
Caproni and her boyfriend spent a sleepless night worried about Romeo, who belongs to her younger sister. The next morning they returned to the area and heard a faint whining coming from deep inside the crack and called the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park rangers for help.
Park rangers responded and determined it was safe for an experienced team to extract the dog from the deep crevice.
Ranger Arnold Nakata, using high-angle technical rope rescue techniques, was lowered into the narrow crack where he found Romeo in good condition, the national park said in a news release.
He rigged the dog with a harness, and a team above pulled them out at about noon Sunday.
Caproni praised the park rangers for their professionalism and efficiency. She said within an hour they assessed the situation, were prepared with the right equipment and pulled Romeo out.
“When they pulled him up, he came walking towards me unharmed, happy as he could be,” Caproni said. “He was rolling around in the grass and went back to the park rangers and kissed them. ”
Romeo was tired but wasn’t limping, and she could not find a scratch on him. She called the vet, but he said there was no need to bring him in.
“I just want to thank with deep gratitude the park rangers with the national park and how they handled the whole situation,” she said. “They brought back our beloved Romeo.”
Jessica Ferracane, spokeswoman for Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, said she had never heard of a case of a dog rescue. “Typically, we don’t rescue animals, but this particular situation was going to be safe enough for us to do so.”
Pets and service dogs must be leashed in the park at all times. Dogs and other pets are not allowed in many areas for safety reasons, and to protect threatened and endangered species, the park says.
“There have been cases where animals have fallen into steam vents, never to be seen again,” she said. “Luckily, this turned out with a happy ending.”
Caproni said although they hike and run with their dogs on-leash, they vow never to allow the dogs to run off-leash again. “We don’t want this ever to happen again, as much as I would want them to run the way they want to.”