Firefighters Rescue Dog Who Was Stuck in a Cave With a Bear for 3 Days

By: Ben Campbell | Last updated: Nov 02, 2023

In the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, one dog was stuck in a cave for three days before heroically being rescued by the local fire department. 

And what’s especially wild about this already unbelievable story is that in the cave with the stranded dog was a giant 200-pound bear. 

The Dog Was Stuck in a 40-Foot Cave

The dog somehow managed to find itself deep within a winding cave below the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee

Source: Robert Alexander/Archive Photos/Getty Images

The owners have not explained how the hunting dog ended up at the bottom of the cave, but it’s likely that he was exploring the woods and accidentally got himself into this sticky situation. 


Calling for Help

As soon as they realized just how far down the dog was, they immediately called their local fire department to help rescue the scared and stuck pup. 

Fire truck races to an emergency

Source: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Fortunately, the Walden Creek Volunteer Fire Department arrived quickly, but things certainly didn’t go according to plan. 

The First Attempt to Save the Stuck Dog

When they first arrived, the firefighters realized the dog was about 40 feet down into the cave, and they knew it would be a challenge to retrieve him. 

Firefighter repels down 40 feet into a cave to save a stranded dog

Source: Facebook

However, while it was technically reachable, when the firefighters headed down into the depths, they found something terrifying. 

A 200-Pound Sleeping Bear Was Waiting at the Bottom

Captain Jon Lanier and Tori Downing attached their ropes and harnesses to head down into the cave in the hopes of extracting the lost dog right away. 

Large bear in a cave in the winter

Source: Adobe Stock

However, when they got to the bottom, they saw a huge 200-pound bear asleep just feet from their landing site. 

The Firefighters Were Forced to Immediately Retreat

In their announcement, the Walden Creek Volunteer Fire Department explained the situation. 

Screenshot of a Facebook post by Walden Creek Volunteer Fire Department

Source: Facebook

The post read, “Things took a turn when Firefighter Downing rounded a corner and found a bear sleeping five feet below her and the trapped hunting dog farther in the cave system.”


Firefighters Had to Wait Until the Bear Left the Cave

The fire department then explained that “the team exited the cave, and trail cameras were set up to monitor the cave exit when the bear left.”

Cars drive by an American black bear in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Source: Raymond Gehman/Corbis/Getty Images

Luckily, the bear wasn’t hibernating, just sleeping, and it left the very next day. Then, an even larger team of firefighters headed back to retrieve the lost dog. 


Preparing for Extraction

The crew from the Walden Creek Community Fire Department prepared for their second descent into the deep cave with ropes, carabiners, and a makeshift harness to collect the scared pup. 

Dog climbing up out of a cave

Source: YouTube

The dog, whose name is Charlie, was still there and essentially unharmed, though he was certainly dehydrated and hungry. 


Charlie Was in the Cave for Almost Three Days

From the time Charlie’s owners realized he was at the bottom of the cave until he was finally back in their arms, about three days had passed. 

Firefighter lifting scared dog out of a cave

Source: YouTube

Technically, a dog can only go between three to five days without food and only 72 hours without water, so it’s really a miracle that Charlie survived this endeavor. 


Why Didn’t the Bear Attack Charlie?

Of course, that’s not the only miracle that happened in that cave. It’s also almost unbelievable that the giant sleeping bear didn’t harm Charlie at all. 

Brown bear with dog in a field

Source: KUOW

Though no one knows why the bear simply let Charlie lie next to him in that cave, Charlie’s owners, as well as the world as a whole, are extremely happy he did.


The World Responds to Charlie’s Story

Neighbors from the Walden Creek area, as well as people from around the world, have reached out to the local fire department to show their gratitude and support for saving Charlie. 

Comment section from a Facebook post

Source: Facebook

One commenter wrote, “So amazing! Thank you all for rescuing that pup! Volunteer firefighters are one of a kind but adding pup rescuers just makes you all supermen/women!!!”


Charlie Is Safe & Sound

This wild story had a beautiful ending: Charlie, the once-lost pup who spent three days in a cave with a sleeping bear, is home, safe and sound. 

Group of firefighters pose with the dog they recently rescued

Source: YouTube

And there is no doubt that the firefighters who saved him will remember this experience for the rest of their lives.