Remy Olivier had gone with his neighbors daily to their Magnolia home that collapsed in a landslide last week, wading through the debris hoping to locate the body of their missing 3-year-old black Labrador mix dog.
The homeowners, James and Didi Fritts, were in their home Friday when their house slid about 15 to 20 feet off its foundation. James, who was trapped inside, was rescued while Didi was able to escape on her own.
But there’d been no sign of the missing “Sammy” until about noon Thursday, when Olivier described the three of them hearing “a little bit of whining” from the home’s crushed ground floor. It came from an area next to the partially exposed body of the dog’s sister, Lilli, who had been killed immediately when mud and debris from an adjacent hillside knocked the Perkins Lane West home off its foundation last Friday.
The Frittses immediately phoned 911, and firefighters and a rescue-extraction team were dispatched. About two and half hours later, Sammy was pulled from the wreckage, a tad dehydrated, but otherwise in fair health considering her six days trapped in the rubble.
“There’s just been no hope,” Olivier said. “We hadn’t been looking for living dogs. We assumed that she was in the crush because there’s not much left of the house. We assumed that she was dead along with her sister.”
Instead, he added: “We found her right next to her sister. So, she’s been next to the other dog this whole time.”
The body of the dead dog had been partially visible in the rubble, but left untouched due to the amount of rubble it was buried beneath. Rescue workers on Thursday had proceeded with extreme caution, worried their presence might cause the red-tagged home, which had slid about 15 to 20 feet off its foundation, to further collapse.
“Our initial crews were able to hear the dog,” David Cuerpo, a spokesperson for the Seattle Fire Department at the scene, said as the rescue operation unfolded. “Right now, we’re cutting through the walls and the flooring to see whether we can locate the dog.”
The crews methodically cut through the debris with chain saws. They formed a hole in the second floor, hoping to be able to look inside and find the dog.
Cuerpo said parts of the first floor, upon which the upper level collapsed, had been reduced to “a crawl space” that further complicated extraction attempts. After about an hour, the crews ceased all chain-saw activity, fearing the noise had frightened the dog into silence.
Meantime, temporary support posts were positioned beneath a second-floor balcony dangling precariously over the crushed bottom floor. The hope was the posts would prevent a further collapse of the home as rescuers attempted to remove additional debris to get a look down below.
James Fritts was inside the home with Olivier and rescuers. At one point, he emerged at an upper entryway and called out to his wife, who was waiting anxiously among a crowd of onlookers in the street below, wanting to know more precisely where she’d heard the dog whimpering earlier Thursday.
Not long after, a cry came from the rescue team: They’d found Sammy alive.
Didi Fritts broke down, sobbing tears of joy. A veterinarian on the scene ran up to the home’s front lawn to meet workers as Olivier carried Sammy from the home and climbed down a steep embankment.
Firefighters then brought Sammy to a waiting stretcher where Didi Fritts — whispering “It’s Mommy, it’s Mommy” — hugged and embraced the animal she’d feared she would never again see alive.
“We just pulled apart the entire floor and we pulled her out,” Olivier said. “She looked like she had just enough room to survive. She wasn’t crushed by anything, or punctured. She had just a tiny bit of room. I guess she was surviving on rainwater the past couple of days.
“It’s just unbelievable that she’s still alive.”
Seattle Times staff reporter Amanda Zhou contributed to this report.