ST. CHARLES, Mo. - Rick Haley has enjoyed exploring caves since 1989, learning more about what lies beneath the surface.
But on August 6, not even he and other cave explorers could believe what they had stumbled across: A dog who turned out to have been missing for two months.
Haley said he and the other spelunkers were taking part in a research project for the Cave Research Foundation. They were remapping a cave just north of Perryville, Missouri.
While they were working, Haley said another spelunker came up to him.
"I met him, and he said we have to do a dog rescue," Haley told FOX Television Stations. The spelunker told Haley that he, along with a group of parents and children, discovered the dog.
Haley, 66, said the other explorers left the cave and knocked on the doors in the nearby neighborhood and actually found the owner of the lost dog.
They then went back to the cave and navigated through twists and turns to reach the dog, who was about 500 feet deep into the cave.
"The dog was in bad shape," Haley continued. "She had been in there a long time. She was malnourished. Starvation. She smelled horrible."
Haley said the dog had no energy to even walk toward him and the other rescuers.
"So that’s when we opted to take this duffle bag...unzip it...put a blanket in it," he continued. At that point, the dog was able to walk over and sit on the blanket.
"She was very near death. We could tell," he added. "She was very skinny and bony."
Haley posted pictures and a video of the dog sticking her head out of the duffle bag on his Facebook page.
The dog was reunited with her owner. Haley said he doesn’t know how she ended up in the cave.
Haley, who teaches for the Missouri School for the Blind, said had it not been for the research project, the dog would have remained in the cave.
"I’m just happy to be able to get her out of the cave because when we got her out of the cave...her spirits lifted a little," Haley continued. "And I can actually say my day was very positive. When I put my head down on the pillow that night, I had a smile on my face."
This story was reported from Los Angeles.