I’m going to admit right off the bat that I’m posting this here because nobody was there to catch everything on video and I want to tell the whole story. I don’t actually care who or how many people read it, I just want to chronicle the events of last night and today.
Last night when I took Yuna out for her evening walk, we saw a pack of three canines go running across St. Mary’s River Dr. near Bay St.. From the distance at which we originally saw them I wasn’t certain whether they were domestic dogs or a pack of coyotes gallivanting about town. What was apparent was that they were unleashed and unsupervised, which drew my concern. They also happened to be running along a path where Yuna and I were set to walk anyway, so we set out in pursuit, being cautious not to get too close until I could get a better look at the animals. I didn’t want to inadvertently get too close to a coyote or even a stray dog turned feral if that was what they turned out to be.
After Yuna and I had been trailing the pack for about 10 minutes we still hadn’t gotten very close but I’d gotten enough looks at the animals under street lights to establish that they were domestic dogs and not wild animals. One was a golden retriever mix, the second appeared to be a tan-coloured bully breed mix, and the third was a black and tan mutt. Yuna and I followed them for about another ten minutes, calling out softly and reassuringly for them to come closer, but they didn’t seem interested in human contact. The few times we got along side of them, they fled when they spotted us. Given that they were showing no signs of distress I decided to leave them be as I didn’t want to make them feel threatened or hunted, out of fear they would turn aggressive.
Moments after Yuna and I had turned away to resume our regular walk, I heard several barks and then a distressed yelp. We turned to investigate, proceeding with haste toward where the sounds had come from. A few minutes of looking revealed the retriever had somehow fallen into the river. The other two dogs were nowhere to be seen, but the retriever was obviously in distress. He was whining, and began swimming toward Yuna and I as soon as he spotted us. At that point we were on the boardwalk directly behind the Delta Hotel, so I called to the dog to coax him toward shore and then left him for a moment to run into the hotel lobby and beg the receptionist to call the fire department. I quickly explained why, then ran back out to keep my eye on the dog in the water.
The dog managed to crawl up onto the rocks under the boardwalk, but there was nowhere that he could actually come up onto land without re-entering the water and travelling about half a kilometre. I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to stand the cold for that long, so I just stayed with him until the firemen arrived. It only took a few minutes for them to get there, but they drove up with lights and sirens going and the commotion spooked the retriever. When they lowered a ladder over the side of the boardwalk to climb down and get him, he actually swam back out into the river to evade capture. They followed him up and down the shoreline for approximately an hour, but he wouldn’t let them catch him. Eventually, they had no choice but to give up. I was distressed, but felt there wasn’t much I could do. I thanked them for trying and then Yuna and I left.
This morning when we headed out for our walk, we returned to the same stretch of boardwalk. I went to the area upstream where the dog might have managed to climb out, looking for any sign of him, but found none. Next I started watching for a body as we resumed our walk. I walked out to one of the scenic viewing areas and as I gazed downstream, scanning under the boardwalk, movement caught my eye. The dog was still there! He was pacing the shore and was in better shape than I had dared to hope. A little farther along was another scenic area that was built lower, closer to the actual shore. It would be too high, and the space between the railings too narrow, for the dog to jump up on its own, but I knew I would be able to climb over at that point and lift him to safety. So… that is precisely what I did. His paws were rubbed raw from pacing on the rocks all night, and his fur was tipped with icicles, but he was still alert and strong enough to climb to safety after I hoisted him up on my shoulder and lined him up with the edge of the boardwalk.
Once he was safely on dry land I frantically begged him to stay while I climbed myself back up and untied Yuna from where I had left her tethered. Thankfully the dog obliged. I wrapped the handle of Yuna’s leash around his collar and held the leash by the middle with one dog at each end as we turned toward home. I dubbed the dog River, since that’s where I found him.
We got him home, got him thawed out, and I gave him a bit to eat. He was fairly thin and I wasn’t sure how long it was since he’d eaten last, so although he was hungry I only gave him a few mouthfuls at a time because I didn’t want him to gorge himself and then get sick.
Soon enough it became apparent that he was infested with fleas. I reluctantly drew him into my shower. I figured he wouldn’t love the idea of getting wet again so soon, but I didn’t want to give him a chance to share his bloodsucking friends with Yuna. I made sure the water was nice and warm, then lathered him up for a flea bath. Although my suspicion was correct and it was not happy fun times in the bath, he endured the washing and came out looking like a new dog. I dried him off and let him doze while I contacted the local Humane Society and other shelters to get word out that he’d been found.
I joined a Facebook group for local Lost & Found pets to post pictures of him, and instead found a post from last night made by a person searching for him. I replied, “I think I found your dog,” and was able to confirm. Less than 15 minutes later his owners were here to pick him up! Both the owner and River (whose real name is apparently Grinder) seemed happy to see each other. I told them briefly about what he’d been through and suggested they might want to take him to the vet for a check up. They thanked me for rescuing him and we all wished each other Merry Christmas. Then they were gone.
I’m happy the whole saga had such a happy ending. When Yuna and I headed down the the boardwalk this morning to check for signs of River along the shore, I was truly expecting the worst. I’m glad those fears were not realized. However, I’m not sure he’s going back to the greatest home. I don’t believe he’s being physically abused, but he was really thin. I honestly thought he hadn’t eaten for days, at least. I hope I’m wrong. His owners seemed genuinely concerned for his health, and it turns out he is only about a year old so he still has lots of filling out to do. My imagination has a way of running rampant with negative thoughts. And in any event, it’s too late to do anything about it now anyway.
So Merry Christmas, River dog. Have a happy life. ❤