Dani Jacobsen, a B.C. mother-of-two, is celebrating a “mini miracle.” She’s been reunited with a couple of her most precious belongings. They were flushed down the toilet of her Salmon Arm-area home more than two years ago by her then two-and-a-half-year-old.
“He was in a bit of a flushing stage,” she explained.
It was after giving him a bath one night in Nov. 2013 that she realized the jewelry she’d taken off — including her wedding band, engagement ring, a pair of diamond earrings and a diamond pendant necklace her husband gave her following a miscarriage — was missing.
‘It gutted me’
After an unsuccessful search of the bathroom, she and her husband David turned to the toddler for answers. He said “something about flushing mommy’s ‘pretties'” and brought them back to the scene of the crime: the toilet.
“All of it gone in one swoop was devastating for both of us.”
So Jacobsen’s husband took the toilet apart in hopes of finding a tangled clump of jewels. When that didn’t work, the six-foot underground pipe layer crawled into a small space under the house and took apart the pipes.
Having found nothing, he started to dig up the frozen ground outside and brought in the big guns to help.
Jacob Starnyski of Reliable Septic Services still tells his customers the story of seeing David sifting through the family’s sewage.
“God bless his soul,” the 22-year-old said, recalling David “geared up from head to toe” in the septic tank.
“I was a nice guy, but not nice enough to go in.”
(Unfortunately there’s no photographic evidence of David’s dedication. His wife thought he probably wouldn’t appreciate that.)
They were devastated when days of combing through the sludge didn’t turn up anything.
‘Lo and behold he saw something shiny’
The Jacobsens, who now live in Nanaimo, moved to Squamish shortly after the whole incident.
When they put their Salmon Arm home on the market, one of the conditions of the sale was to have their old septic tank pumped. They again hired Starnyski, who was determined to find what he was sure was still there.
“He really slowly pumped the tank, kept his eye out and lo and behold he saw something shiny,” Jacobsen said.
It was the pendant necklace wrapped around her engagement ring. She cried when her mom gave her the news.
Starnyski cleaned up the keepsakes and put them into a jewelry box, which Jacobsen received over the weekend.
‘Invest in a toilet lock’
The family may not be out of the woods yet. Their youngest son Grady, who’s two-and-a-half, has the same flushing fixation his five-year-old brother Cohen eventually grew out of.
“He’s flushed soothers and toys and balls. He tried to put towels down the toilet. It’s a whole thing,” the boys’ mom said. “I don’t know what their obsession with it is.”
Grady even flushed a bathroom stopper, which broke their new home’s toilet the first night they were in there.
Their advice to other parents? “Put your valuables away and maybe invest in a toilet lock.”
“I don’t know why we haven’t gotten one,” Jacobsen admitted. “I’m sure they could probably get in there too.”
City sewage retrievals a little trickier
Those who flush valuables down the toilet in a big city usually aren’t as fortunate as the Jacobsen family.
“We do get calls from time to time about things that get flushed down the drain, primarily jewelry such as earrings and rings and watches. We don’t typically have very good luck at finding these items,” said Bruce Todd, the superintendent of Vancouver’s sewer maintenance department.
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They sometimes have better luck when things get dropped into storm inlets. One story in particular from over a decade ago sticks out in his mind.
“A young man who just purchased an expensive wedding ring… accidentally dropped it beside his parked car. Of course it then fell into the inlet beside the curb. The distraught man contacted the City and a crew retrieved the ring.”
In that case, the retrieval only took 20 minutes of digging.