Two dogs have been rescued after spending eight days stuck underground.

Jack Russells Hattie and Toast disappeared on 20 July while playing in a paddock at their rural home in Essex.

Owner Katie Fuller and volunteers searched everywhere. They used a drone and a civilian sniffer dog and barbecued sausages nightly in the hope the smell would entice them home.

Eight days later barking was heard from a hole and the “now skinny” pair were safely dug out of a tunnel.

When Hattie, nine, and her daughter Toast, six, failed to come home, Ms Fuller and her daughter Lucy searched nearby fields in Danbury, checking for holes the dogs might have gone in to, but found nothing.

Volunteers helped them set up a Facebook page, printed posters and notified lost pet websites.

Barbecue and missing dogs poster
Their owners hoped the smell of their favourite sausages would bring the missing pets home

“We even had a man come along with a trained sniffer dog, which seemed to know our pets were nearby, but we could not find any trace,” Ms Fuller said.

“Another came along with an infrared drone and someone set up some wildlife cameras – but all we saw was wildlife.

“We were like headless chickens but everyone was helping us for free – it was unbelievable,” she said.

RSPCA vans
RSPCA officers came out to help in the search

When wafts from nightly barbecues failed to bring the dogs home, they began to think they had been stolen.

Then on Tuesday evening Lucy went to check one of the cameras and heard barking from underground.

“We found an entrance and put a camera through and could see Toast’s nose – she looked like a little mole,” Ms Fuller said.

The fire service spent about two hours carefully digging out Toast.

Lucy Stammers with Toast and Hattie
Lucy Stammers with Toast and Hattie immediately after the rescue
Toast (top) and Hattie are recovering after spending eight days stuck in a hole in a field

“When she emerged, there was Hattie, behind her – the firemen joked they got two for the price of one.”

She believes the dogs had been so tightly wedged they could not bark until they had lost weight, giving them a little more room.

“I can’t believe how many people helped us find them and I can’t thank them enough,” Ms Fuller added.