CAUTION: This story will choke you up and restore your faith. This is what bravery looks like.

10-year-old Derek Hedges had crawled through jagged rocks, mouse nests, and more than a few spiderwebs.

Was he scared? Heck yeah. But according to the local Wyoming newspaper The Republican Rustler, he was determined to save the family dog called Ace.

Ace is a Treeing Walker Coonhound breed, and is part of Derek's family. Ace has been protective of Derek for all of these years.  Ace even once saved Derek and his friends from a charging horse. Now it was Derek's turn to save Ace.

Road 5 near Cowley, Wyoming. The sound of a dogs scared yelping was heard. At first, nobody could tell where it was coming from.

Turn right signal on country road

‘We had noticed in the evening time Friday night that there was a dog barking repetitively, and we had to shut our windows,” a neighbor said. “Finally, on Sunday, we determined that it sounded like a hurt dog. I headed down toward the canal thinking that’s where I heard the noise, and as soon as I got down there and shut off the Ranger, the barking would stop.” (Republican Rustler).

Ace had been missing for most of the weekend. But he did that now and then, so folks just assumed he would be back.

Finally, the neighbor called the family telling them that the yelping he was hearing sounded like ACE!

It took some searching, but they finally found a culvert on the west side of the road. More than three-quarters of the pipe was blocked off with dirt.

Way back there, some 15 to 20 feet in Ace was yelping for help.

What ?

By now they had figured out that Ace had been in the culvert for days.

9:30 at night they had found him. Could Ace survive another night? They were not going to take their chances.

They went to the other side of the pipe. It wasn’t packed with dirt and rocks. But that side put Ace 30 to 40 feet in.

No one had any idea how to get way back in there until it was suggested that Derek was small enough to fit. Also, Derek was selected due to Ace’s comfort with him.

But they would have to talk Derek into the mission. It was dark, dirty, with mice and snakes and spiders that had been seen in and around the pipe. This was going to be scary.

They promised him a week's worth of McDonald's if he would do it.

Clouse up the rat in dry leaf background. Animal contagious disease concept.

Finally, Derek found his nerve and knelt down before the pipe.

A lasso around him and the rope in hand, Derek crawled in.

'When I climbed in, I could still hear (Ace through my ear plugs). It was all rusty, with mouse nests in the pipe. There were big holes and they would just build their nests in there,' Derek said. 'It was kind of hard, because there were rocks rubbing against my stomach.'  (Republican Rustler).

10 minutes in and Derek finally reached Ace. But it was the wrong end of the dog. Ace was facing the other way and the poor dog was in a bit of a panic.

'He was kind of heavy and I couldn’t pull him forward a lot,' Derek said. 'I tried pulling him super hard to get him close enough. And then I tried to tie the rope around his foot somewhere, but he kept kicking it off.'

An industrial tunnel leading into the light
Oliver Sved

They were 40 feet in. Ace was not cooperating. He was panicking and squirming. Derek could not get the rope around him.

Folks above ground called for Derek to come back. But Derek was too determined to give up.

'I’m not done yet,' Derek called back. 'I’m not getting out. I’m finishing this job.'

(PERSONAL NOTE: At this point, I had to pause writing this story because I actually teared up a little as I quietly rooted for Derek).

'It was a proud Dad moment,' his father said.

Derek decided that if he could not tie the rope around a squirming dog's body maybe he could tie up a leg.

Slowly working backward, pulling a scared dog and family member, Derek made the long trek back.

Superhero kid

Ace is fine. He drank a lot of water, ate a lot of food, and took a long nap.

“It’s ok to be scared sometimes,” Derek said.

Derek only has one complaint. He was promised a week's worth of McDonald's if he went in after the dog. Nobody has paid up yet.

The original account of this story was written by By Ryan Fitzmaurice of the Republican Rustler, a newspaper in Wyoming. I'd like to thank Mr. Fitzmaurice for the way he wrote his version of this story. It made my entire year.

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