Travis Gilbert hugs his 15-year-old dog Abe on Sept. 24 in Arlington. The deaf and nearly blind dog went missing on Sept. 3 from the backyard and was found barely alive 12 days later about a mile away at the bottom of a deep hole in the woods by PUD linemen. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Travis Gilbert hugs his 15-year-old dog Abe on Sept. 24 in Arlington. The deaf and nearly blind dog went missing on Sept. 3 from the backyard and was found barely alive 12 days later about a mile away at the bottom of a deep hole in the woods by PUD linemen. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

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The tale of old Abe, 15, a blind, deaf dog missing 12 days

The dog’s odyssey landed him at the bottom of a “Silence of The Lambs” pit. A PUD crew saves the day.

ARLINGTON — After 15 years of being a good dog, Abe itched for adventure.

No matter that he was tailless, deaf, nearly blind and had the bad hips of a 105-year-old man.

What’s up with that?

On Sept. 3, the Australian cattle dog escaped from the Gilbert family’s back yard by pushing open the gate. They had been in the house near downtown Arlington only two weeks after moving from the Smokey Point area.

“The back gate didn’t latch. I didn’t know that,” Peggie Gilbert said. “He’d never been lost before and I thought he was a goner.”

Abe had been with the Gilberts since he was a pup. The dog, born without a tail, was a ninth birthday gift in 2005 for her son Travis, now 24, who named him after the hero in the video game “Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee.”

“He’s not as much as a pet to me as much as he is my buddy,” Travis said. “It felt like a piece of my soul got ripped out when he went missing.”

The family put out an APB on social media for the 30-pound red heeler with no tail, a large fatty mass on his belly and a limp. They pounded the pavement.

“Every person we saw we’d ask, ‘Hey, have you seen a loose dog running around with no tail?’” Peggie said. “We were looking everywhere. I’d ride my bike up and down the alleyways in the evening. My son would run up and down the blocks.”

There were a few sightings early that didn’t pan out. For 12 days, they hoped for the best and feared the worst.

“I didn’t think I’d ever see him again,” Travis said. “I was feeling lost, like there was a presence gone from my life.”

“I was already grieving,” Peggie said. “You have to come to grips.”

On Sept. 15, Arlington police called to say Abe had been found.

“I said, ‘Is he alive?’ and they said, ‘Barely,’” she said. “The old bugger made it.”

A veterinarian check showed Abe was underweight but otherwise fine.

Snohomish County PUD line foreman Ray Snider and journeyman Steve Ingrum found the dog at the bottom of a deep pit while on a pole replacement job.

While in Arlington on Sept. 15, two Snohomish County PUD linemen replacing a pole came across a large hole and saw a dog at the bottom. Abe, a 15-year-old Australian cattle dog, had been missing for 12 days. It is unknown how long he was in the hole. (Submitted photo)

While in Arlington on Sept. 15, two Snohomish County PUD linemen replacing a pole came across a large hole and saw a dog at the bottom. Abe, a 15-year-old Australian cattle dog, had been missing for 12 days. It is unknown how long he was in the hole. (Submitted photo)

The linemen were in a remote area off 67th Avenue when they noticed the hole in the ground. They looked down and saw a sad-looking dog at the bottom.

“We haven’t checked on that pole in years,” PUD spokesman Aaron Swaney said. “We don’t generally go back in this area. That we were back there was pretty serendipitous. It was very fortunate for the dog.”

The linemen used a ladder to reach Abe and gave him water. Rather than move the dog, they called the police who looped in the fire department.

Arlington firefighter/EMT and acting captain Al Chamberlin climbed into the hole and carried the dog out.

The jagged hole was about 7 feet deep and 8 feet wide in some places. It was in a small clearing in a heavily wooded area not far from railroad tracks and below a bluff.

Arlington police support officer Val Copeland compared it to the pit from “The Silence of the Lambs.”

“That’s the first thing I thought of when I saw the dog down there,” Copeland said.

Abe didn’t have a collar or a microchip. Copeland didn’t want to take him to the animal shelter. A police volunteer tracked down the owner through a photo of Abe on the Lost Dogs of Snohomish Facebook page.

Copeland and the Gilberts credit the observant PUD workers with saving the dog’s life.

“If they hadn’t gone out there that would have been his grave,” Peggie said. “It still makes me cry.”

“It just feels good to have him back,” Travis said. “He’s old. I don’t know how much longer he’s going to last, but I’d rather he go with us than by an unfortunate accident.”

A PUD crew returned the next day to fill in the hole, which was on private property.

It wasn’t a sinkhole like the one in North Carolina last week that made national headlines in another dog rescue story. In that case, a group of mountain bikers spotted a dog at the bottom of a 30-foot hole along Sinkhole Trail at Pisgah National Forest. It took a salty snack and some straps to lift the dog, nicknamed Sinker, to safety. At this writing, Sinker has not been claimed and people are lined up to adopt him.

It is unknown how long Abe was in the hole.

“He was pretty distraught and confused. He was not himself, and I was afraid he’d never be back to being himself,” Peggie said.

A few days of belly rubs and Snausages treats did the trick.

“He’s running, chasing the ball. He’s getting up to speed to where he was,” Travis said.

The hole was about a mile from their home, across Highway 9. Knowing he was so close only added to the mystery of Abe’s odyssey.

“I wish he could tell me what he did for those 12 days,” Peggie said.

Don’t we all.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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