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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of July 24 - 30, 2002


Rescue at Bullion Mine

Abandoned Great Pyrenees with pups saved by Hailey family

Express Staff Writer

In an adventure much like a page from a Nancy Drew novel, a Hailey family and visiting friends made a life saving rescue on a recent Sunday outing to visit an abandoned mine.

Mark Gasenica, left, and Vern Ray happily hold a cage full of mewling pups after rescuing them from underneath an old mining shed. Photos by Mark Gasenica

Mark and Kim Gasenica and their daughters, Kaitlin, 13, Alison, 7, and Miranda, 7, took some friends from California out Croy Canyon July 14 to the old Bullion mines, about seven miles west of Hailey.

While they explored the area the kids claimed they could hear what seemed to be yelping.

First, Gasenica thought they were imagining things. Then he decided it was just a coyote in the hills. Finally, after the adults confirmed the noises, they all began investigating.

Their search led them to the discovery of a litter of mewling, flat-faced puppies under the floor boards of one of the dilapidated outbuildings.

"They were maybe three weeks old, with eyes barely open," Gasenica said. "The mom came up from a creek. She looked like she needed food." Though terribly thin and gaunt, they recognized that the dog was a Great Pyrenees.

After exploring the mines a little longer, the group drove back down Croy Canyon to the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley. Gasenica and his friend Jim Estep accompanied long-time shelter employee Vern Ray back to the mines.

Happy warm and full at last, eight Great Pyrenees puppies sleep off the excitement after their rescue. Photos by Mark Gasenica

"You couldn’t have asked for a nicer guy then Vern," Gasenica said. "He coaxed the mom out with a hot dog, put a leash around her, and put her in the van in a cage. She put up very little resistance, she was just so hungry."

As the men gathered up the pups they counted eight of them. They were all put together in another cage. "One was really yelpy. They were really cute and really special to be honest with you," Gasenica said.

Back at the shelter the mother ate voraciously. Eventually it became clear she’d been surviving on nothing more than creek water and grass, and had been alone at the mine since before the pups were born.

The dogs have since been given names—the mother is Emmy, and the now four-week-old babies are Coal, Diamond, Copper, Goldie, Ruby, Garnet, Opal and Nickel. The shelter manager, Donna Sims, said Emmy has already gained weight from her rescue weight of 77 pounds. All the dogs are available for adoption from the shelter.

"The shelter was awesome," said Gasenica. "Vern is our hero."

And did the Gasenicas commit to bringing a pup home?

"The girls absolutely want to keep a couple. We haven’t decided our fate yet."

The Gasenicas, who live in Indian Creek, have three cats, and a myriad of other small animals but—amazingly for longtime valley residents—have never owned a dog.

The Great Pyrenees, which look somewhat like a New Foundland, are often used for sheep herding in this area. They grow to be 90-125 pounds "Bigger than all of my kids combined," Gasenica laughed incredulously.

For the visitors from California the adventure made their trip, Gasenica said.

He added that the experience was a great learning experience for his daughters. "The kids have been treated well at the shelter—they go out there every other day to see the pups. It’s nothing but good stuff. Now they have to learn how to spell Pyrenees."


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.