A ‘Lassie’ story with a twist

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Labrador leads animal control officers to another dog trapped in cistern

By Meaghan Downs

Zeke knew he had to save his partner-in-crime, Snickers.
Trapped in a cold cistern on Hawthorne Lane with no way out, Snickers needed help.
And Zeke, a large Labrador mix, went to find it.
“It’s a Lassie story,” Snickers’ owner Millie McAnly said, remembering the Jan. 22 incident.
Much like the famous collie’s television rescues, Zeke attempted to attract the attention of a property owner on Hawthorne Lane, according to Anderson County animal control officers.
The woman thought Zeke was hungry, so she put out food for him.
But Zeke ignored it, trying to get the woman to follow him to Snickers.
Uncertain about what Zeke wanted, the woman laid down a blanket on the cold January ground for the barking Labrador.
But Zeke had no interest in lying down.
Eventually, the property owner called Anderson County animal control officers Jason Chesser and Shawn Bast.
And finally, Zeke’s persistence paid off after the dog led Chesser and Bast to Snickers.
“Zeke did not leave her,” Millie, who estimated that Snickers may have been stuck in the cistern for as long as a day and a half, said. “He stayed by that cistern.”
Zeke and Snickers are inseparable, she said, much like their respective owners Johnny Benningfield and Doug McAnly.
Johnny and Doug have been best friends since kindergarten. The two men, and their wives Millie McAnly and Kelia Benningfield, live as next door neighbors on a farm near the Anderson and Mercer County line on Clay Lick Church Road.
One of eight dogs owned by the McAnly family, Snickers often wanders over the Benningfield’s side of the farm to hang out with the Benningfield’s three dogs.  
“They were big buddies for a long time, they were partners in crime,” Doug said of Zeke and Snickers in a phone interview last Thursday.
So when Snickers didn’t come back to the McAnly house for food around Jan. 20, Millie’s first call was to Kelia Benningfield.
Out of all the dogs, Snickers has tended to be one of Millie’s favorites, she said. Snickers is a sweet dog, and not prone to running off without at least coming back to eat, Millie said.
“They’re [the Benningfields] the first people called when we noticed Snickers wasn’t here,” Millie said.  
But Zeke was missing too, Kelia Benningfield said.
The Benningfields and McAnlys guess the dogs left together, with Zeke and Snickers wandering up to Hawthorne Lane about a mile and a half from the farm until Snickers fell into the cistern.
“We just never dreamed that they would take off that far,” Kelia said of the dogs.
Both the Benningfields and McAnlys said they spent the better part of that week looking and calling for their pets.
Millie said she was especially concerned because of the freezing temperatures that affected the county at the end of January.
“We kind of exhausted everything,” she said of their search for the dogs.
Then Johnny Benningfield got in touch with Anderson County animal control and asked if they had a dog that fit Zeke’s description — a black and chocolate Labrador mix.
Animal Control said they did.
And they had a story to tell.
“All of our dogs are protective of our home and our kids and of us, especially my husband,” Kelia said. “They’re very loyal. But we were very surprised that [Zeke] would know to go to strangers and try to get help.
“I guess it’s just his protective nature, and Snickers was with him every day. He knew he couldn’t go off and leave her.”
Other than not being able to walk right away after being fished out of the cistern, Snickers did not sustain any injuries. It took a couple of days for Snickers to work the soreness out of her muscles from being stuck in the hole, Millie said, but then she was back to normal.
With one change: Snickers’ electronic dog collar was replaced by a new, functioning one.
Zeke was also unharmed after his adventure away from home.
Kelia said she’d love to know who the Hawthorne Lane property owner was that called animal control, to thank her for helping find Zeke and Snickers.
“He was just happy to be home, he was out running in the yard, running, running, running,” Kelia said of Zeke.