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Stink is worse than his bark

A pup's rescuers must pry up manhole covers to pull Scrappy to light.

By Ben Montgomery
Published April 8, 2007

Scrappy emerges from a sewer on Saturday lean but no longer lost, thanks to Jonathan Harris, left, of the stormwater department and Milton Smith of animal control.
[Times photo: Brian Cassella]

TAMPA - The sound came low and whiny from the bowels of Lake Street, and Michael Hankerson, outside on a bright Saturday morning to cut his grandma's grass, put his ear toward the earth.

There it was again.

And again.

He ran inside and told his grandmother, Lelia Cobb, 60, who called her neighbor, Annie Hawkins, 71, who called her daughter, who suggested they call the law.

Pretty soon, police pulled up to the intersection of E Lake Avenue and N 10th Street in Jackson Heights to see about a resident who thought she heard a dog - a dog! - down in the sewer.

After a few minutes, the officers decided there was nothing they could do so they radioed dispatch to ask for backup.

As the clock ticked, a big truck labeled Stormwater Department pulled to the curb.

Jonathan Harris - who in 15 years with the department has never had to fetch a dog from a drain - climbed out and fished in his truck and began pulling the covers off the manholes on the four corners.

A small crowd gathered as Harris descended into the dark, cool belly of Lake Street, down by the empty beer cans, cigarette butts and stinky water.

He whistled. He made kissy noises. He listened.

"I don't know how long he's been up in there," Cobb told him. "I hope he didn't die."

Harris poked his head out.

"No dog in this one," he said. "I could see all the way through to the other side."

He climbed out, walked across the street and disappeared again.

More whistling. More silence.

"There's pipes going this way, there's pipes going that way," he said. "He could be anywhere."

The women worried.

"I hope he's okay," said Cobb.

A woman who would only give her name as Vicki stood away from the pack. She said that maybe the dog was hers. Her puppies get out sometimes and one was missing this morning. She said the missing dog didn't have a name but her boyfriend sometimes calls him Scrappy.

More backup arrived.

Animal control officer Milton Smith carried a catch pole, a peel-top can of Science Diet and a Milk-Bone. He coolly passed the food to Harris beneath the blacktop.

Harris cracked the top and put the food down by a crumpled can of Old English 800 malt liquor.

He climbed out and hovered over the hole.

Then he saw a nose, then a face, then a hungry puppy.

Smith readied his catch pole. Scrappy barely noticed the noose sliding around his neck.

"Got him," Smith said.

From the earth came a 2-month-old Lab-chow mix, tongue out, legs spread, thin but alive.

Then he looked around.

Then he wagged his tail.

"Awww," someone said.

Smith put Scrappy in his truck and talked to the owner. Brenda McGruder of 3518 N 10th St. claimed responsibility. She turned over willingly to Animal Services Scrappy's brother and sister. Smith wrote her four citations for not having tags and vaccinations for four grown dogs behind her shabby fence.

"That's the reason we encourage people to spay and neuter," said Animal Services spokeswoman Marti Ryan. "It's such a shame. But maybe it's a good thing for all these dogs."

She said the dog was in fair shape. Veterinarians would check for worms or diseases and then try to adopt him to a better family.

Ryan suggested renaming the pooch.

"Milton," she said.

Ben Montgomery can be reached at or 813 661-2443. 

If you adopt

If you'd like to adopt Scrappy or another dog, call Hillsborough County Animal Services at 744-5660, or visit the department's Web site:


[Last modified April 7, 2007, 22:12:29]

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