OAKWOOD - Jim Wilson of Oakwood might have spent last weekend burying his dog of almost five years if not for the quick-acting heroes in the Vermilion County Animal Regulations Department.
Wilson's dog, Luther, had wandered away from his home at Leisure Time Estates last Friday to a nearby lake. Seconds later, the dog was struggling to keep its head above the 25-feet-deep lake.
?He could have died,? said Wilson. ?They didn't have to save him, but they did.?
The men who responded to the call were Animal Regulations Director Shane Boyer and Animal Warden Aaron Craddock.
?We heard that a dog had fallen through the lake and was drowning,? Boyer said. ?We expected the dog to be a distance from land and knew it had been in the water for a while. The animal was going to get tired very quickly since it was swimming to stay afloat. If we didn't get there quickly, the situation would not have been a good one.?
When officials arrived at the scene, the brown bull mastiff with a black muzzle laid sideways with its head on the edge of a broken piece of ice from the lake.
Luther was more than 10 feet away from the property so a neighbor gave Boyer a boat to rescue the animal.
?We walked out on the ice until we could get far enough and then stepped inside the boat,? he added. ?We used a control pole with a loop at the end of it to put around the dog's neck. We pulled him to the side of the boat and loaded him in before walking the boat to shore.?
The dog was rushed to Vermilion Hillcrest, where Animal Regulation Administrator Dr. Connie Brunkow treated the dog after the accident. Luther was released later that day with no significant injuries.
?He is doing fine now. He's just worn out,? Wilson said, after rushing from work in Gibson City to check on his dog. ?Because he is so big, the hyperthermia didn't set in.
?I really appreciate that the animal shelter helped out. They didn't have to go out there, especially as deep as the water was, but they raced right up there and got him out. They told me he was almost done.?
Wilson also has a twin female dog that was found safely in his garage.
The day provided a spectrum of emotions, beginning with the call he received at work Friday morning. His drive up Interstate 74 was a worried one.
?I didn't know what was happening,? he said. ?I didn't know if they were alive anymore.?
He also credits neighbor Jake Hafner, who first saw the dog trying to fight his way out of the water and called Wilson's mother.
?Thankfully, Jake happened to look out and see him in the middle of the lake,? Wilson added.
Boyer, a former three-year shelter supervisor for the Spartanburg Humane Society in South Carolina, said he was pleased that his first water rescue produced a happy ending to a situation that could have been a tragic story.