A dog and his owner nearly drowned in Vernon Creek Thursday, May 18.
Jessica Pechet and her 126-pound labradoodle Astro were at Marshall Field dog park when the canine went into the water to swim with a few other dogs.
“He’s at this park every day and it’s completely normal for him to be up and down the banks fetching sticks and messing around,” Pechet said in a public service announcement. “When I called for him he never came back, which he’s never done.”
Panic set in, and in no time about 20 people were helping to find him, even taking their cars out to see if he followed the fence line of the airport.
“After about 45 min, and a lot of tears I was starting to give up until I heard an unusual gasping sound from a very dense tree area along the creek,” she said. “While searching for the sound I lost my footing and ended up being swept down the river right into the tree branches my dog’s collar was stuck on where he was gasping for air and terrified.”
Despite the strong current, she managed to free the dog and get him upstream enough where a group of people helped the pair get up the slippery creek banks.
“We are both pretty traumatized and beaten up by all the branches but I’m happy to say our family didn’t loose our dog in this freak accident.”
Astro lives on the lake with his family, and is described as a strong swimmer.
“But when the creek has branches and debris that covers the entire path down stream you can’t help but get caught up and tangled. If I didn’t fall into the water following an odd gasping sound we probably would have lost him cause there would have been no way to see him where he was.”
She contacted the City of Vernon, which told her they’d look into the safety of the busy public park.
In an email to The Morning Star, city communications manager Christy Poirier said: “first and foremost, we are thankful to hear that (Pechet) and her dog did get out of the water OK with the assistance of other park users and that they are both recovering well. Our thoughts go out to them following this very unfortunate incident.”
Poirier said the Parks Department is reviewing the incident report “and will be looking at the park to see if there are any concerns to be addressed.”
She added that snow is still melting in higher elevations, causing creeks to fluctuate and water to move very quickly. Poirier reminded the public to be “extremely cautious” during the spring freshet and to stay a safe distance away from creek banks, particularly with children and pets.
The city’s operations division confirmed that Vernon’s creeks still have capacity and there are no reports of blockages or overland flooding for Marshall Field Park, but water is currently flowing very fast.