Justin Monette (left), Ian DeBack (center) and a camper save a trapped dog
Co-workers and friends Justin Monette and Ian DeBack were out Friday evening enjoying a paddle on the Shell River in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, when they spotted a black Labrador Retriever. The dog was sitting near the shoreline and appeared to them like he was simply relaxing and watching the boats go by.
But on Sunday, when Justin was out paddling again in the same spot, he was surprised to see the dog again. The dog was lying down and having a hard time keeping his head above water.
Upon seeing him, Justin realized the dog had been stuck in the thick sediment along riverbank. Justin could tell the dog was exhausted and in distress. He managed to reach his family and the police with his call phone, but Justin knew it was up to him to help the dog as soon as he can.
He told the Prince Albert Daily Herald, "I didn’t know if he was alive or not. But when I noticed him trying to struggle to keep his nose above the water and he looked over at me - that was it for me."
When he got out of his kayak to help the dog, the dog made a "gurgly sound" instead of a bark. "It was awful. Poor little guy," said Justin. He tried to pull him out, but quickly realized he'd need help extracting the dog.
Coincidentally, Ian and his family were also out for a paddle at that very same time and happened by. Both men were surprised to see one another. Ian and his kids immediately joined in to help Justin free the dog. The two men, however, could not pull the dog from the cement-like mud.
Ian thought to check a nearby field and found the Shell River Campground. He recruited some campers to help. They brought a shovel and all-terrain vehicle. The group got to work and finally freed the limp dog from the mud. They gently placed him in the kayak to transport him to the all-terrain vehicle.
The dog was shaking badly from the cold and was waterlogged. A few of the campers recognized the dog as having been seen near a country house nearby a few days earlier. The rescue crew went to the home with the dog right away.
The home belonged to Robert and Theresa Fahlman, who greeted them and said that it wasn’t their dog but thought it might be their neighbor's. Seeing the dog needed immediate care, they set up a bed with heaters and sleeping bags to warm him up.
The Fahlman family took over care for the dog. They cleaned him, warmed him up and let him rest. Unable to lift his own head, the family fed him milk with a syringe and checked on him every few hours throughout the night. By early morning, the dog was starting to breath normally and welcoming the milk.
The Fahlman's neighbor learned of the incident and visited the Fahlmans, confirming that the dog did indeed belong to her and that his name Otis. Seeing the quality of care he was receiving, she and the Fahlmans agreed it was best not to move him until he had rested and regained more strength. Otis was getting his strength back and later on Monday morning, he was finally able to get around, although he was still wobbly on his feet.
On the road to recovery, Theresa Fahlman said, "He's an amazing dog. And I’m glad for my neighbor's sake that he pulled through."