In a Florida canal, you’re liable to find anything and everything capable of fueling nightmares: huge bugs, freshwater crocodiles, even swamp people. While most residents may be accustomed to the Sunshine State’s aquatic horrors, what these Broward County Sheriff’s officers found left them with a serious story to tell.
It was an ordinary Monday morning when they received a distress call about a dog stuck in one of the many canals within their district. When the officers reached the scene, however, they had no idea of the backstory that connected them to the poor pooch…
It was early January 8, 2018 when Shasta, a seven-year-old German Shepherd, slipped through a hole in the bottom of a backyard garden fence. Within just a few minutes, she realized that she’d made a huge mistake.
Shasta didn’t have to wander far to find trouble in her North Lauderdale, Florida, neighborhood. Just one block over, she sniffed around at the the top of an embankment flanking a modest canal – on unstable ground.
Without warning, Shasta lost her footing. She struggled to regain traction on the shore and skidded six feet down a slope, into the canal below…
Desperately, Shasta paddled for the shore. While the 95-pound dog had extensive guard dog training, it didn’t help her—not at that moment. She couldn’t get a paw on the steep embankment and wet rocks without slipping!
Luckily a passerby saw the struggling pooch. They didn’t know how long the dog had been stuck, but they could tell by her obvious exhaustion that she wouldn’t be able to stay afloat much longer, so they alerted Broward County authorities…
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Sergeant Tom Watkins, Deputies Nezar Hamze and Josh Stambaugh, and two other officers responded to the call. “I have two German shepherds myself and love dogs,” Officer Stambaugh said. For him, this rescue would be personal.
“We heard an animal in distress—person in distress, animal in distress,” Officer Stambaugh continued, “and we all responded.” Sergeant Watkins echoed his deputy’s urgency: “We hopped into our vehicles right away,” he said.
At the time, the officers didn’t know a thing about the dog’s owners or her background. All they knew was what they saw as soon as they arrived on the scene: Shasta’s situation was dire, and they had to act immediately.
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“We saw the dog in the water, not moving that much at all,” Officer Stambaugh explained. “There were rocks down at the bottom of the bank, which were slippery.” He stepped right into the canal and tried to pull Shasta out…
But Shasta retreated further into the canal, taking her chances with exhaustion instead of her rescuer. It broke Sergeant Watkins’s heart. “You could see the sadness in her eyes and how scared she was,” he said.
Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, Shasta’s family discovered their beloved dog had escaped. “I [was] starting to panic and calling for her,” Jasmine Davis, daughter of owners Doug and Dahlia, said.
Dahlia Davis reached her panic point, too. She texted her husband about filing a missing animal report with animal control. Of course, the family didn’t know their dog’s life was in the hands of five officers at that very moment…
Meanwhile, the officers, knowing the German Shepherd was too scared to be pulled from the canal by hand, grabbed an animal control pole. When the pooch once more approached the shore, the officers put the lasso to work.
“We were able to coax the dog back in,” Officer Stambaugh said. “And then I was able to lasso her.” Carefully, the officer guided Shasta back to shore. She was weak, tired, and heavily breathing.
Once the dog was safe on the shore, animal control set about tracking down her owners. Then they connected with Doug and his family. The officers were shocked when they heard the name—and for a good reason.
Doug Davis—father to Jasmine, husband to Dahlia, and the owner of Shasta—was a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy! Officers Watkins, Stambaugh, and the three others had rescued their own colleague’s pooch!
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Reunited with their pup, the Davises couldn’t have been happier. “Thank you guys so much for finding my dog,” Jasmine said while smiling ear to ear. “I didn’t think I’d be able to tell you guys thank you.”
Dahlia thanked the officers as well: “We’re so grateful,” she said. “I don’t know what our home would be like… if we still didn’t know where she was.” The officers, meanwhile, were just happy to help the dog out.
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“Knowing this was my dog or someone else’s dog, we got there as fast as we could,” Sergeant Watkins said. “We wanted to save the dog’s life.” And thanks to their tenacity, the officers did just that!
The officers’ body cameras captured the intense rescue from a unique point of view: their own! These dog lovers did everything they could to make sure one family didn’t have to live without their beautiful pooch.
Good thing those officers were able to safely pull Shasta out of the canal. As dog owners themselves, they knew just how much someone out there loved her. The coincidence was simply an added bonus!
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