Montville puppy, Rizzo, rescued from well

Montville — Holly Cadwell's pit bull puppy, Rizzo, didn't make it far from home when she ran away Sunday night. But 20 feet down a well may as well have been miles.

Two fishermen and friends, John Balducci of Quaker Hill and Matt Lamothe of Montville, happened to be angling near the Wheeler Pond dam Monday morning when they peered down the well and saw Rizzo peering back.

"We went to go fishing off the dam, looked in the hole, and we said, 'Oh, there's a dog down there!'" Balducci said. "'We better call somebody.'"

"That was the best thing we caught so far this year," he added.

Balducci often goes out in a boat to fish. If he'd done so Monday, he and Lamothe likely wouldn't have discovered Rizzo.

When Montville police and animal control arrived, they determined they needed the fire department's help. Montville Fire Department requested assistance from the Mohegan Tribal Fire Department's confined space rescue team.

Mohegan fire and Montville police, fire and animal control officials worked together to extricate Rizzo from the well right along Wheeler Pond and Route 163. Adam Kaplan of the Montville Fire Co. was slender enough to fit into the hole and engage in the confined space rescue.

Fire Chief Ron Turner said emergency personnel set up a rope system to get Kaplan down and then back up. Kaplan descended into the darkness, fitted Rizzo with a harness, and responders lifted both out of the hole. The operation took six minutes, according to Turner, not including the time it took to establish the operation in the remote, wooded location.

Kaplan jokingly said he was "petrified," but in truth, he was assured because of his and his team's preparation.

"We worked well with Mohegan Fire," he said. "We practice for this kind of thing, and I trust our team, so I had confidence everything would go smooth."

Once Rizzo was again on ground level, emergency personnel gave her treats and water and petted her while she wagged her tail. They also covered the hole with a large rock to keep something like this from reoccurring. Animal control then brought Rizzo to her waiting and worried family.

About 8 p.m. Sunday, Cadwell took to Facebook, posting in the Homebrewtvnews group about her missing pit bull puppy. She included pictures and said a reward was available. While Cadwell was at work, her kids and the puppy had gone outside to play about 5 p.m. Rizzo ran away shortly after.

Cadwell was ecstatic about Rizzo's rescue and return. She thanked the vigilant fishermen and diligent emergency personnel profusely.

"We were scared she got caught by a coyote," Cadwell said. "She ran away yesterday at about 5 p.m. We were yelling for her for hours into the night."

Rizzo is approximately 13 or 14 weeks old, and Cadwell has owned her for roughly six weeks. She said Rizzo doesn't usually run away or make trouble, although she is energetic and "likes to eat everything," including outdoor furniture. Rizzo came home muddy, with a tick on her and hopefully with her lesson learned.

Remy, Rizzo's brother, a 3-year-old pit bull, kissed, played with and barked at his sister when Cadwell let him out of the house and onto the porch.

s.spinella@theday.com

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