Animal warden rescues dog from James RiverBecky Johnson gives new meaning to the term “doggie paddle.” Johnson, the animal warden for the Jamestown Police Department, waded into the James River in search of a drowning animal Tuesday. Her efforts saved the life of Charlie, a 6-1/2 pound Yorkshire terrier mix.
By: Katie Ryan, The Jamestown Sun
Becky Johnson gives new meaning to the term “doggie paddle.”
Johnson, the animal warden for the Jamestown Police Department, waded into the James River in search of a drowning animal Tuesday.
Her efforts saved the life of Charlie, a 6-1/2 pound Yorkshire terrier mix.
Charlie had wondered from home around 11:30 a.m. and likely slipped into the river near the 400 block of Seventh Street Southwest.
The 15-year-old dog has wandered before, Johnson said. So she’s familiar with his seeing and hearing troubles. Had she called to him, Johnson said, Charlie wouldn’t have heard her.
So when she saw Charlie floating in the water, unmoving, Johnson considered other options.
“That’s when I knew. There was no question, I was going in,” she said.
As Johnson, a 20-year veteran of the police department, waded further into the river, her 5-foot-2-inch frame couldn’t touch bottom, Johnson said. So she paddled to shore with one hand and held the animal above water in the other.
The temperature and current didn’t concern her, she said.
“I had only getting the dog on my mind,” Johnson said.
Once they were on land, Johnson and another officer performed CPR on Charlie. Johnson, sopping wet on a 51-degree September day, gave her only blanket to the animal.
“I used the blanket for the dog, the blanket I keep in the truck,” she said.
She and the officer transported Charlie to the Prairie Veterinary Hospital where Dr. Gary Pearson warmed him, administered oxygen and gave the animal an antibiotic to prevent pneumonia.
Had Johnson not rescued Charlie as soon as she did, or not performed CPR, the dog may not have made it, he said. Even with Johnson’s efforts, Charlie recovered in an animal incubator Tuesday afternoon.
“Seconds become important once they stop breathing,” Pearson said.
In 25 years, Pearson said he’s seen dogs in water and dogs with hypothermia, but he’s never seen anyone jump in after them.
“It doesn’t surprise me that Becky would do that,” he said. “She wouldn’t hesitate.”
Dogs, especially older ones like Charlie, are part of an owner’s family, Johnson said. She knows how important they are.
Charlie’s owner, Chuck Hobert, said he thinks of Charlie like a child of his own. Hobert visited Charlie at the Prairie Veterinary Hospital Tuesday afternoon. He hoped to take his pet home, but Pearson expected to keep Charlie overnight.
“I hate to see him like this but I’m glad they rescued him,” Hobert said.
Johnson’s rescue is concerning, said Police Chief Dave Donegan. But he’s proud of her.
“It scares me,” Donegan said. “I don’t want nothing to happen to her or anyone else that works here.”
After a hot shower and change of clothes, Johnson said she feels fine, save for an injured toe.
If it happened tomorrow, Johnson said, she’d be back in the water again.
“Oh yeah, no doubt,” she said.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan can be reached at 701-952-8454
or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org