Spoiler alert… the dog lives and everyone makes it out ok, even the dude who jumped in.
The Los Angeles River is a running joke for the fact that most of the time it hardly has any water running through it. But those of us who live near the concrete channel know that with just a couple of inches of rainfall, it becomes a bonafide rushing river.
That’s just what happened today as showers started early this morning. Just before 2:30 p.m., I started to hear the whap-whap-whap of several helicopters circling nearby. I assumed it was another classic LAPD chase on the 101 Freeway. Then I got the social media alert.
A woman and her dog were apparently stuck in the water upriver near Hazeltine Avenue and rescue efforts were underway. I knew there was probably little I could do to help, but I also knew I had to do whatever I could.
I needed a rope. I had a 50-foot extension cord.
Right from the beginning, I figured this was a better safe than sorry moment–Los Angeles Fire Department rescuers tend to be pretty dang good at their jobs. But I grabbed my cord and ran out to the nearest bridge over the river. I was thinking, “If worst comes to worst, and the woman comes bobbing along, the least I can do is throw her a line.”
Thankfully, the woman was rescued pretty quickly according to social media. So, I wound the extension cord back up and went home. But the dog…
Social media then said the dog was still in the water and headed down stream. I grabbed my cord again and ran outside, knowing it was probably an exercise in futility.
By this time, the rain had stopped and the water level was about one to three feet deep. I ran back to the nearby bridge and sure enough, a big Rottweiler-mix was in the river, trotting downstream. The dog had already made his way past where I was standing. Several people had come out to witness the commotion at that point.
One man wearing slippers and pajamas was running alongside the river, keeping pace with the dog and I followed suit. The man was in his late 20’s or early 30’s. He was trying to get ahead of the dog.
He turned to me, looked me in the eye and said, “I’m going in.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I told him.
Rescuers were still on the job and weren’t giving up on the dog. If the dude jumped in and got caught up in the current, rescuers would have to focus their attention on him and not the dog.
The dude jumped in.
He got a hold of the dog. The water was only about knee-to-waste-deep here, but the current was strong. I tossed my cord to may neighbor, Kahyeed, who came along trying to help and he tossed the extension cord to the dude in the water. For a few minutes, it looked like the ordeal was over. The cord was tied to a sturdy fence. The dude in the water had a grip on the dog and a grip on the cord, and he was holding there about a mile downriver from my bridge.
Chopper rescue caught up to the dude and pulled him out, but the big Rottie slipped away again. Eventually the dog made its way down to where the Tujunga Wash feeds into the LA River in Studio City. Here the river is wider and much shallower. By about 4:20 p.m., LAFD rescue teams were able to get a harness on the dog and get him to dry land. After two hours, the crisis had ended.
According to several news sources, the dude who jumped in apparently suffered cuts and bruises and a few dog bites. Rescue officials were also bitten, but don’t blame the dog. The animal was scared for its life and some stranger was grabbing at it. Any of us might bite in that situation.
Considerable resources were no doubt expended rescuing the Rottweiler, and I’m perfectly aware that this seems silly in light of ongoing wars and virus outbreaks and volcanic eruptions. For that matter, it might seem a bit silly for me to go running a mile downriver with my futile little extension cord. It definitely seems silly to climb over a chain link fence and jump off a wall, 10-plus feet into freezing, filthy water full of debris and who knows what else. But in a world full of violence and misery and tragedy, I say we need all the happy endings we can get.
It doesn’t matter if you know your efforts are likely to be pointless–This is our river. These are our people. These are our pets.
This is our community. We protect it. Even if it makes us feel silly, we fight for it.
This is FOX 11 news footage. About 2 minutes in you can see the dude grab hold of my extension cord.
This video was taken on a different day but it will give you an idea of how dangerous the LA River can be on a rainy day