LOWVILLE It had all the makings of a family-friendly Disney movie: a lost three-legged dog, a group of teens setting off on a mission down a railroad track, an abandoned building, a police call, a frantic action scene and, finally, a heart-warming ending.
But these events arent fiction.
It started the morning of Feb. 15, when Milo, an 8-year-old, three-legged Labrador retriever/Akita mix, scooted away from his owners on Trinity Avenue before his leash was attached.
Milo is quite mobile despite losing a leg when he was hit by a car as a puppy, though he also has a seizure disorder. He had taken off before, so his family wasnt immediately worried.
Usually, hed come back within 30 minutes or maybe an hour, said owner Christy Corbett. Hed be covered in burdocks.
This time, however, Milo didnt return.
At the three-hour mark, Mrs. Corbett said, she began to get worried. By the time six hours had passed, she took to the Internet, posting Milos photo on her Facebook page. The link was shared by hundreds of people through the Lewis County Humane Society and Journal and Republican Facebook pages.
After I put that up, strangers sent me messages, Mrs. Corbett said. They said they walked Trinity after work and would keep their eyes open. The Humane Society was really helpful, too.
But Milo was nowhere to be found.
The Corbetts continued to look for him. Because they recently had moved to Trinity Avenue from River Street a few blocks away, they left blankets outside their old home and asked neighbors to be on the lookout.
No one saw any sign of him.
After several days passed, I really did lose hope, Mrs. Corbett said. I was pretty sure we would never see him again.
The family thought Milo had gone somewhere to die.
He wasnt dead, though likely close to death, when 11 days later a group of teens took action after hearing a barking dog.
Lowville Academy and Central School sophomores Taylor M. Giver, Andrew Hardy and Devrin M. Hannan, along with Carthage Augustinian Academy eighth-grader Daria E. Mahan, finished their teen group meeting at Lowville Free Library and left to meet up with Lowville Academy freshman Brandon E. Munger.
They had some time to kill before some of them were expected at play rehearsal at the high school and would be taking what Devrin called a common shortcut along the railroad tracks between Trinity and Shady avenues.
Wed been hearing a dog bark for a few days, Andrew said.
We decided to mount an expedition to find where it was coming from, Devrin said. The five set out on the well-worn, snow-covered path along the tracks.
We had a general idea where the dog was barking, so we began prodding around, Devrin said.
The barking led them to a large building with train tracks running underneath its double doors. One of the doors had been pried open, and the students entered the structure.
Inside, the tracks ran over a cement floor littered with scraps of wood, empty plastic jugs, broken glass and other bits of debris.
The smell of skunk hung heavily in the air.
On the rails sat a rusting train engine. Its colorful paint was peeling, but still visible on its flank were the words Lowville and Beaver River 1950.
Though the space was well-lit by sunlight streaming in through large windows, a mechanics pit beneath the engine was hidden in shadow.
It took us a while to realize the barking was coming from underneath the train, Brandon said.
A small opening between the train wheels offered the teens a peek into a deep, cement-lined cavity. Inside, Milo sat staring up at them.
The teens contacted the Lewis County Sheriffs Department, which sent out a call for an officer to respond.
Lowville police Sgt. Randy L. Roggie was the first on the scene, and a dog control officer was en route 20 minutes behind him.
Mrs. Corbetts mother heard the call come over the police scanner.
She called me right away, Mrs. Corbett said. She heard on the scanner a dog is trapped in a building on Trinity. I took off running.
By this time, the teens also were on Trinity Avenue, talking to Sgt. Roggie, and traffic was slowing down to stare.
I looked up and saw two joggers coming our way. I wondered if they were going to slow down and stare, too, Devrin said.
But the joggers were Mrs. Corbett and her husband, Shawn, racing to see if the trapped dog was Milo.
Out of breath, Mrs. Corbett said, she asked the group if the dog had three legs. She was sure it was Milo.
Together, Sgt. Roggie, the teens and the Corbetts returned to the building.
Mrs. Corbett recalled hearing Milos bark. I knew it was him before I saw him. I know his bark, she said. She started to cry.
They used a cellphone flashlight to see Milo in the pit. He was panting, skinny and filthy and smelled of skunk, but his tail was wagging.
Andrew and Mr. Corbett dropped into the hole to get Milo out.
No one is sure how long Milo was trapped during the 11 days he was missing. Hed been in the pit, apparently with no food or water, for enough time to cause a 30-pound weight loss.
He was weak and had difficulty walking. The pads on his paws and his nails were worn down from digging at the cement walls. The site of his front leg amputation was raw and open.
A trip to the vet revealed some muscle deterioration, but offered a better report than expected. Milo had no frostbite despite temperatures being below zero on several nights that he was gone.
Milo has been sleeping a lot since his return home and regained several pounds within the first few days.
He also had a trip to the groomer. His fur is clean and white again, and the skunk smell is gone.
The Corbetts and their six children are thankful the teens took the initiative to find the barking dog.
They didnt have to do that, but they did. They saved his life, Mrs. Corbett said.