Just call it puppy love: Man risks life to save pet

Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2003

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- A puppy plucked from the icy waters of Thomas Basin was brought back to life, thanks to the love of her owner and extraordinary measures taken in a hospital trauma room.

Gary Weston, 38, said he was taking his two dogs, Daphne and Socks, for a walk Tuesday along the boardwalk next to his home when some cats began chasing Daphne, a 4-month-old pug mix-breed puppy.

As the puppy tried to get away, she lost track of where she was and shot over the edge of the boardwalk and into Thomas Basin.

''She ran in between the two rails and over she went,'' he said.

Weston said he stripped off his jacket and climbed down the pilings near the dog. Weston's wife, Lorena, was inside their home when she heard Weston yelling.

''He started screaming for me,'' she said.

Daphne's head was bobbing in the water and Weston managed to grab her. ''Once I got a hold of her, but then she slipped and went under. Then when I tried to grab her again I fell in,'' he said.

That's when Weston realized his leg was caught in the cross piling.

Lorena Weston called 9-1-1 and then began screaming and pounding on her neighbor's doors. Meanwhile, Gary Weston, clutching his puppy to his chest, was beginning to lose his ability to remain afloat as hypothermia set in.

Neighbors Lyle Jones and Gary Ward lowered an electrical cord for Weston to hold on to.

''He just said, 'I can't hang on, I can't hang on,'' Lorena Weston said. ''I told him, 'You have to damn it. You have to.'''

With Weston's strength waning, Weston said he never once thought about dropping the puppy. ''They told me to, but no,'' he said.

Rescue personnel from the Ketchikan Police Department, Ketchikan Fire Department and U.S. Coast Guard arrived within minutes.

The rescuers found a skiff and paddled over to Weston, breaking ice as they went. Officer Eric Mattson threw a rope to the skiff and began to pull them forward.

After about 25 minutes in the water, rescuers reached Weston and Daphne and freed his ankle.

Weston was suffering from moderate hypothermia but OK, said paramedic and firefighter Glen Hofmann. The puppy was not so lucky.

''Basically the dog was barely breathing when a Coast Guard crewman handed him to me by the ambulance,'' Hofmann said.

Firefighters loaded Weston and Daphne into an ambulance and headed to Ketchikan General Hospital. Daphne stopped breathing.

''When we were in the ambulance, they said, 'This one's gone. She's not breathing,''' Weston said.

Weston and Hofmann traded off doing doggy CPR, blowing into Daphne's mouth and pressing on her chest. By the time the ambulance reached the hospital, Hofmann said she was stiff.

Weston and the dog were hurried into the hospital, where Weston was admitted to the emergency room. Meanwhile, Hofmann said he brought Daphne to a trauma room, where he, two nurses and Dr. Robert Crochelt worked to revive the dog.

''We pretty much decided she was dead, then I went ahead and put my finger down her throat one last time when she pushed her tongue against my finger,'' Hofmann said.

Hofmann said Crochelt took up the effort, incubating the puppy and attaching an IV.

Daphne's temperature was dangerously low when she was placed under Weston's warming blanket, said Lorena Weston. ''That's when they both started doing good,'' she said.

By Wednesday afternoon Daphne was sporting a hot pink doggy sweater and darting around the Weston home.

''She's still not herself yet, but she's doing good,'' Lorena Weston said.

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