Photos provided by Don Coyte
West Milford police, Upper Greenwood Lake Fire Company members and DPW employees worked to free Buddy from the ground hog hole he had fallen into.
BY LINDA SMITH HANCHARICK HEWITT — Ted DePeola went outside of his Wayside Road home Wednesday afternoon calling for his nearly 10-year-old chocolate lab, Buddy. He called for him, even went looking in the woods for him when he didn't respond. Then he heard a dog barking. DePeola went around to the front of his home and still couldn't see Buddy. He followed the barking and there was the 107-pound Buddy, up to head in a large ground hog hole under a burning bush, unable to get out. DePeola tried to pull him out, wrapping a leash around his body, but Buddy didn't budge. DePeola called 911. West Milford Police responded, as did the Upper Greenwood Lake Fire Department and Department of Public Works employees. They started to dig. And dig. They cut away some of the burning bush above Buddy and used a rope under his arms and shoulders and eventually pulled him out. "He was a very well behaved dog," said Don Coyte, a member of the Upper Greenwood Lake Fire Department. "We were digging right up against his neck and he showed no aggressiveness at all. He was a little wobbly after we pulled him out but he managed to walk out." DePeola said Buddy is "a peach" so he's not surprised at all that he behaved so well. "The puppy bothers him and he just lets her," said DePeola, talking about Noelle, the 7-month-old chocolate lab. Buddy and Noelle like to sit under the bushes out front because it's cool there, he said. And DePeola fills the holes regularly, but the ground hogs just keep digging them. Buddy's ordeal lasted a total of about three hours. DePeola brought him to the vet Wednesday afterwards and he checked out just fine. "I would like to thank them wholeheartedly," said DePeola about the police, fire company and DPW members who helped save Buddy. "They worked together so well. I couldn't have asked for more."