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Watch a small poodle in a tiny orange sweater get freed from a drain in Port Richey (w/video)

PORT RICHEY — It was scary to be Taffy the dog on Wednesday morning.

No, not even the orange sweater the 15-year-old poodle was wrapped in to keep him from the chill at 6 a.m. was enough to protect him from the elements.

"I was out in the yard with him," said his owner Wesson Williams, 78. "I turned my back for one minute and then he disappeared."

Soon he heard the barks coming from under the ground.

Somehow, Williams said, when Taffy went to "do his business" outside the home on Miller Bayou Drive he wandered into a culvert underneath a driveway near his home. He got stuck near the end of the 30-foot tube, where a ball of overgrown roots closed off any escape.

The more Taffy tried to get out, the more he got tangled in the thick roots underground. The elderly pooch is also deaf, police said, and was surely terrified.

"Before you know it is dark and wet and you can no longer move," Port Richey police wrote on a Facebook video of the ordeal. "You can't hear or see your owner. That's what happened to Taffy this morning until his rescuers were summoned, and jumped into action to free him."

Soon, police, fire department, public works and utilities crews were on scene to help.

Williams, who has lived in Port Richey since 1985, was surprised with how quickly so many people arrived to rescue the dog he's had since the poodle was a puppy.

For two hours crews struggled to free the dog. Finally, public works and utility crewmen used a backhoe to dig up the dirt where Taffy was trapped.

"He generally doesn't walk off," said Williams, still shocked by Wednesday afternoon. "He usually stays right with me."

Crews were able loosen the dirt and the roots, and there was Taffy, still tangled and barely able to move. The crewmen pulled and tugged the earth until they could bring grab Taffy, who was soon back in Williams' arms.

Taffy's orange sweater was a little dirty and his fur a little more brown than usual, but Williams didn't seem to mind.

The surrounding crew clapped.

Taffy nuzzled into Williams' gray, fluffy beard. Later that day the happy dog owner said his dog was doing well.

Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com. Follow @sara_dinatale.

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