Janesville57.6°

Dogs rescued from Rock River

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
August 31, 2010
— The two Labrador retrievers rushed to their owner, licked his hands and wagged their tails during their emotional reunion.

Moments earlier, the dogs—Brittany, 9, and Hunter, 1½—had been rescued from the Rock River by Janesville firefighters.


Where they went into the water, how they got to where they were rescued and whether they went over the Centerway Dam remains unknown.


Owner Raymond Huntoon, 362 Hyatt St., said the rascals snuck away from him.


“They usually go with me when I put my trash out. When I went back to get more, just like kids they were gone,’’ he said.


That was around 7 a.m.


“I was looking for them for an hour when the Janesville Fire Department called me,’’ he said.


LeRoy Heider, 12, of 449 N. Oakhill Ave., was riding his bike when he noticed the dogs in the river in the 200 block of North Main Street.


“I heard splashing by the stairs,” he said.


Heider caught the attention of three men picking up portable toilets for Ace Portables.


“We tried getting them out,’’ said Nick Taormino, who tried to lasso the dogs with a ratchet strap from the truck.


“It wouldn’t go down and underneath them because the current was pulling them away from us so fast,’’ said Tom Murray, one of Taormino’s co-worker.


Meanwhile, co-worker Kurt Vlasak called 911.


“The big (dog) looked like she wasn’t going to hang on much longer,” Taormino said.


“They were tired,” Murray said.


“And looked like they’d been in the water a while,” Vlasak added.


One of the dogs disappeared for 20 seconds beneath the swirling, murky water.


“Oh! She went under. She’s gone,’’ Heider yelled.


Seconds later, the fire department’s rescue boat arrived with firefighters Chad Hansen and Dan Benz aboard.


“They were struggling,” Hansen said.


“One dog had a collar, so I grabbed that,’’ he said


After the dogs were in the boat, the firefighters took them to the stairs behind the United Way parking lot and called Huntoon using information they found one of the dog’s tag.


“They look OK, but I’ll take them to the vet to get checked out,’’ Huntoon said.


The distance his dogs had traveled amazed Huntoon. His backyard backs up to the Salvation Army at 514 Sutherland Ave.


“They’re water dogs,’’ he said.


But never before had they run away and jumped into the river, Huntoon said.


“Thank you very much,” he said to Heider, as he slapped a greenback into the kid’s palm.


“I’m relieved they’re back,’’ Huntoon said, after putting the dogs into their travel carriers in the back end of his pickup truck.


The dog rescue was the second by the Janesville Fire Department in recent weeks. Firefighters on Aug. 12 rescued a dog that had fallen into an open manhole.



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