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'Miracle' pooch survives 15-story fall in Florida high-rise

By Kevin Conlon and Vivian Kuo, CNN
updated 7:47 PM EDT, Sat June 14, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Susie, a Maltipoo, falls through a 16th-floor vent shaft, lands on second floor
  • It took rescuers 3 hours to extricate the 4-year-old pooch
  • Vet calls it "a miracle" that she suffered no major injuries

(CNN) -- A Florida woman's dog is recovering Saturday after it plunged 15 stories down an air conditioning vent the night before.

The fact that Susie -- a 4-year-old Maltipoo -- survived in the first place is nothing short of "a miracle," according the emergency vet who treated her. Dr. Spencer L. Ratnoff said Susie suffered no internal bleeding or broken bones, "another miracle," he said.

Susie's fall occurred Friday evening when she and owner Elaine Caralis were visiting a neighbor on the 16th floor of her Fort Lauderdale high-rise.

Click to expand: Susie's owner Elaine Caralis  Click to expand: Susie's owner Elaine Caralis
Click to expand: Susie's owner Elaine Caralis Click to expand: Susie's owner Elaine Caralis

After walking inside the apartment, Susie followed a scent into an open closet, Caralis said. But that's when something went terribly wrong.

"(Susie) walked into the closet and fell down into the exhaust shaft," she said.

She thinks a ventilation panel that would have normally concealed the breach was missing.

Timothy Heiser of Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue said responders "cut holes above and below the second floor to try to get (to her)."

He said a fire crew "eventually managed to get close enough to the pup to remove her from the shaft before she could fall any further."

Caralis called rescuers' efforts over the three harrowing hours "heroic."

"I don't have children," the 68-year-old Caralis told CNN, "so Susie is my life, Susie is my family. They treated it like they were searching for a human being."

An ambulance rushed Susie to Oakland Park Animal Hospital, where a waiting Ratnoff feared the worst.

"I'm thinking 15 stories, there are going to be multiple fractures, severe internal injuries or worse," he said. "I was worried it might need to be euthanized."

But Ratnoff said Susie was alert and conscious upon arrival, and despite some serious bruising, is expected to make a full recovery.

Her shaken owner echoed the doctor's assessment. "It's a miracle," Caralis said Saturday.

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