A dog trapped in a drainage pipe underneath a 200-year-old house in Pingjhen City (平鎮), Taoyuan County, was rescued on Feb. 28 after firefighters “received permission” from the property owner’s ancestors to excavate the ground by casting divination blocks.
Casting divination blocks — zhijiao (擲筊) or bwa bwei in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) — refers to a religious ritual in which people toss crescent-shaped red tablets to “communicate” with deities or deceased members of their families.
The house is part of a three-section housing compound belonging to a prosperous family surnamed Chang (張). The majority of the family members reside in the vicinity of the house, where they gather during the Lunar New Year and other traditional festivals to honor their ancestors.
Although the house was built about 200 years ago, it has been well-maintained.
However, on the night of Feb. 28, one of the six dogs that the residence’s current owner, also surnamed Chang, keeps to guard the property was found trapped in a drainage ditch underneath what used to be the house’s grain yard.
Chang said the dog — a Formosan mountain dog named Heihei (黑黑) — was always full of energy and had a tendency to run into the drainage pipe in the grain yard for fun.
“We had not paid much attention to Heihei’s habit of getting into the pipe, as it had no trouble getting itself out before. However, as it has grown surprisingly fast and weighs nearly 10kg, the pipe became too narrow for it to get out of,” Chang said.
As Heihei was stuck about 1m from the pipe’s entrance, Chang could not rescue the dog himself and had to ask the local fire department for help.
However, after firefighters also failed to rescue the dog, Chang, out of respect for his ancestors, resorted to zhijiao to “ask for their consent” to free the animal at the cost of damaging the ancient property. He received the go-ahead on his first try.
Firefighters originally sought to remove the concrete covering the underground pipe manually, but as the cement was nearly 10cm thick, they had to borrow an electric drill from Chang’s neighbors, said Tseng Jung-pin (曾榮彬), one of the firefighters.
Tseng added that it took his peers more than two hours to free the dog.
Despite returning home with an aching body, Tseng said his muscle pain could always be soothed by massage treatments and that it had been worth it to save the dog.