Steamboat residents work together to save injured pet

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Maribeth Len/courtesy

On Tuesday, the Len family's yellow lab/golden retriever mix, Donyek, fell into the Elk River and broke both front wrists.

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Courtesy Photo

Alexis Len, 11, with Donyek, 6, and Kobe, 18 months. The two dogs ran away from home on Tuesday, and ended up stranded in the Elk River. Kobe, who wasn't injured, stayed by Donyek's side until help came from several Routt County residents and Sheriff's deputies. (courtesy/Maribeth Len)

— When Dancy St. John got home from picking up her children at school Tuesday evening, she heard yelping and barking coming from her backyard, where the Elk River runs at the bottom of a 40-foot drop.

Earlier in the day, she had seen two dogs from the neighborhood playing near the house.

One of them - Donyek, a 6-year-old golden retriever/yellow lab mix - was stranded on a small ledge in the river with two broken front wrists. The other - Kobe, an 18-month-old chocolate lab - was barking for help and refused to leave Donyek's side.

"The chocolate lab was just wagging its tail and barking and barking, and the other one wouldn't get up," St. John said.

"It was like something out of 'Lassie.' The dog just would not leave this yellow lab," Johnny St. John said.

With the river at about double its usual volume for this time of year, and Donyek unable to go anywhere, the St. Johns began working on a way to get the dogs off the ledge without being swept away by the Elk River. They called the Routt County Humane Society, which was closed, and then the Routt County Sheriff's Office. When Sheriff's deputies Lt. Dara Frick and Chris Tritz arrived, they thought about calling Routt County Search and Rescue.

Whatever the solution was, Johnny St. John said, it would mean either getting to the dogs through 200 to 300 yards of running water, or lifting their 80 pounds out of the river with a rope. They chose the former.

"I said, 'Let me make a phone call,' - they were looking for any type of solution that was viable at 10 at night," Johnny St. John said. The call was to Eugene Buchanan, a friend with considerable boating experience, including being the publisher of Paddling Life magazine.

"I said, 'Listen, we've got a situation. Do you have an inflatable raft that we could put together quickly and get in the river?'

"He said 'I've got a canoe that'll probably work.' Sure enough, Eugene answered the call and came out to the river," Johnny St. John said. They were worried the two dogs might be aggressive in a stressful situation with strangers; Donyek and Kobe were anything but.

"This dog literally grabbed us and drug us to this dog when we hit the ledge," Johnny St. John said. "I've never seen this with dogs like this. This chocolate lab would not leave this dog's side.

"That dog could have swam the river and gone home, and we would have never known that yellow lab was down there."

By 11:30 p.m., both dogs were recovering at Steamboat Veterinary Hospital.

Maribeth Len, who lives about a mile and a half down the road from the St. Johns, said she was taken aback by the effort her fellow Steamboat residents put into saving her pets.

"For people who didn't know those two dogs, or where they belonged, to spend hours - from probably 7 to 11:30 at night, it's just a story that people care," Len said.

Comments

colobob 7 years, 2 months ago

Nice to see that all ended well. Kudo's to all involved in the rescue!

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fish 7 years, 2 months ago

Okay I'll ask the obvious question, why was the owner of these dogs not out looking for her animals when they were not at home, on her property. Hope that if she has kids she is a better parent than animal owner but I doubt it.

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80488mom 7 years, 2 months ago

Fish - give me a freaking break. You are so quick to jump to conclusions and judge this person. This was a beautiful story until I scrolled down to your comment. Some of us live in the country and our pets run our acreages. They wander off in a blue moon....and that includes cows, horses, dogs etc. I've rounded up all of the aforementioned before. It's how we in the country live our life and that includes being good neighbors.

Now I think I would judge this person by the character of her dogs before I would judge her by this incident. This was a story of much more than a dog off a leash. This was a story of a bond between animals (wish more people were like that)...this is a story of good neighbors...this is a story of the willingness of the good people in this county to come together and rescue a dog. This was a story of what living in this county is all about. This is what brought us here and this is why we stay. Why did you come here anyway?

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tesped 7 years, 2 months ago

What a wonderful story of the loyalty of animals and of people unselfishly helping their neighbors!

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80488mom 7 years, 2 months ago

Animal Farm - you're welcome. This chapped my weathered, old ranching hide.

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fish 7 years, 2 months ago

Wonder off fine. 1 and 1/2 miles and late at night and your not looking for your animals. This is not responsible animal ownership and if you don't like my comments don't read them. I don't remember holding a gun to your head.

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80488mom 7 years, 2 months ago

Fish- no.....you didn't hold a gun to my head...but given the chance probably with your attitude you would. Sounds like your dog isn't the only thing on a short leash. Could we reign in the anger a bit?

1 1/2 miles is not that far in the country Sam. And who is saying they weren't calling for them....but out here dogs go off and play.

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fish 7 years, 2 months ago

I think it is truly a heart warming story that a neighbor took the time to rescue this dog. I also think the response of the sheriff's department was great. The thing that I don't feel so great about is the owners of the animals. I wonder how long it would have taken them to find their pets if this story had a different ending, or if they would have even looked for them.

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80488mom 7 years, 2 months ago

Fish - let's go back to where you chapped my hide......responsible animal ownership set aside..... You said, "Hope that if she has kids she is a better parent than animal owner but I doubt it."

That was uncalled for. You don't even know this person yet you rush to judgment. That comment was totally out of place and not in line with the content of the story.

I disagree with you about animals in the country. They come home skunked, porcupined......and even with injured paws.....but you went even further by commenting on her parenting skills which are not even in question. From the online picture looks to me like she has a cute, healthy little girl there...one who is very happy to have her "friends" home......and learned a few things about the goodness in people and animals.

I don't think she needs you to worry about her kids. I'm sure her kids are fine and living a healthy, well rounded life out in the country. I bet they even have chores which are expected of them. I doubt they are drinking at a city park or walking the streets late at night. They might even be 4-H'ers. Who knows. The article didn't go there and you had no right to go there either.

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80488mom 7 years, 2 months ago

Fish - you bet they would have been looking for them....and probably were. You don't raise dogs like that if you don't care about them. These two were extraordinary dogs by all accounts....as I am sure their owners are. How do you think the rescuers met up with the family? I'm sure the dogs had their tags on. And....what makes you think they weren't looking for them. They might have been looking the other direction. Who knows....who cares...it doesn't matter.

I've had a horse looking in my window. I've had cows in my drive. I've returned the neighbor's dog. We live out in the country and animals sometimes wander. We live out here for the freedoms the country has to offer and those freedoms are also available to our dogs. We don't think twice about returning an animal to their owner....and we certainly don't pass judgment on people because of little mess one of their pets they might have gotten themselves into.

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80488mom 7 years, 2 months ago

and......Mr. Fish......the dogs were out in the river. Maybe they were down by the river near their own house and the current swept them downstream.......that might explain the injury and ending up on the ledge did you ever think about that???? Maybe they weren't victims of wanderlust. Labs are water dogs. If I'm not mistaken they even have webbed feet. Maybe they were just out frolicking in the water and the water was running too fast for them.

Whatever the scenario you still chap my hide.

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80488mom 7 years, 2 months ago

so Mr. Fish Out of Water....an apology to these good people would be appreciated I'm sure.

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fish 7 years, 2 months ago

Oh, I chapped your hide, I'm bad. TOUGH!I guess that I will just have to find a way to live with that.

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80488mom 7 years, 2 months ago

You don't owe me an apology...you owe this woman an apology for insulting her capacity to raise children. I don't give a big rat's ass what you say about me, Sam.

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little_liza 7 years, 2 months ago

80488mom I agree that fish had no right to comment on her ability to raise kids. I had hoped to see the comments reffering to the facts of the articles spirit.

I am very pleased to see an article in the paper that clearly represents what Steamboat should portray. Even though we have seem to lost sight of our ranching heritage, I do know it still exists.

To the folks that teamed together to save the dogs: THANK YOU!! Generosity of such value is hard to find in todays society.

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lowerprofile 7 years, 2 months ago

Fish - How does the saying go? It is better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

I happen to know this family very well. The mother is a better person than you will ever hope to be. She has raised two amazing young women who are responsible and respectful to people and animals! If you must know, I know for a fact that the mother was out on a 4-wheeler looking all around for the animals and was very worried.

My suggestion would be for you to be careful as to what conclusions you jump to about others. It probably says more about you than you would like others to know!

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