A DOG owner was overjoyed to see her beloved pet again after suspecting the worst when it disappeared suddenly during a walk.

Anne Halton was walking Westies Poppy and Lilly and her friend’s dog off leash on Cockfield Fell, in County Durham, when four-year-old Poppy disappeared out of the blue.

Unbeknown to Mrs Halton, Poppy had plummeted into the depths of a mine shaft.

Due to the hundreds of years of coal mining that took place there, Cockfield Fell is full of bell pits and collapsed mine workings, which can prove dangerous when covered over by grass, as they can’t be spotted easily.

Mrs Halton said: “I was keeping a close eye on Poppy and I had turned away to walk about four steps, and when I looked back at where she had been, she’d gone - I couldn’t find her anywhere.”

With help from the community, Mrs Halton spent hours searching the fell, from 1.45pm to 11.30pm, asking other dog walkers if they had seen Poppy.

The 58-year-old said: “It was panic at first, and I felt a bit frustrated because we just couldn’t understand how she’d disappeared so quickly.

“Eventually we decided to call it a night because it was hard to search in the dark, even with torches.

“We had a sleepless night worrying about what could have happened, we put it on social media and called rescue services, we even called the vets to see if she’d been handed in.”

The following morning, Mrs Halton received a call from fellow dog walker Alison Gallimore telling her that she would go out and look for Poppy whilst walking her own dogs, cocker spaniels Badger and Bean.

Miss Gallimore said: “I set off across the fell and went into an area where the ferns and old pit holes were.

“My two dogs kept smelling at a hole and running back and forwards to me, and when I put my light on my phone, I could see Poppy right at the bottom of the hole.”

The shaft the unlucky pooch had fallen into was barely visible due to grass and bracken covering it, but was about 20 ft deep, with another tunnel leading off at the bottom.

Miss Gallimore tied two dog leads together to make a lasso and managed to haul Poppy to safety.

She said: “It was thanks to my dogs that I found her, and it was only a little hole that she had fallen through until they dug the grass away.”

Mrs Halton said: “Her dogs had obviously heard Poppy crying when we couldn’t. We would never have found her if it wasn’t for Alison’s two little hero dogs Badger and Bean.

“If it hadn’t been for them, I don’t know what would have happened to Poppy.

“I would like to thank everyone for all of their support in kind messages, advice and offers of help to look for Poppy.

“Dog Lost UK and Drone SAR offered marvellous support, and we will be eternally grateful to Alison and her two wonderful dogs for finding and helping to rescue Poppy.”