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 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 breathing heavily.
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 bond between a pet and their owner is incredibly special; many people, just like the Davises, will say that their dogs are like members of their families. And that’s especially true when you’re used to bringing your furry friend with you everywhere you go.
Which was exactly the case for one 20-year-old fisherman named Nick Haworth. So when he and his pup ventured out onto the Pacific Ocean for a long day of fishing, Nick was confident he’d return home with some great catches.
Obviously, no day of fishing was complete without his dog, Luna, a one-year-old German shepherd-husky mix. Luna would always venture out onto the seas with Nick; she was a great companion, and Nick loved her dearly.
Nick and Luna had sailed about 80 miles off the coast of San Diego, California, near a small island called San Clemente, before things took a dark turn. As he was readying his gear, he realized Luna was no longer on the boat…
Panic immediately took over, and Nick began checking every nook and cranny of his boat. He hoped Luna was hiding in a small crevice somewhere, but after several minutes of searching, Nick realized she was gone.
Nick began wondering how he hadn’t noticed Luna disappear. She was by his side nearly the entire time! The only thing Nick could do at that point was continue his frantic search for his beloved companion.
Luna had always been a strong swimmer, but making it back to the San Diego coast would have been too far. Nick prayed that she knew to swim her way toward San Clemente after she fell overboard.
Nick radioed the local Coast Guard and Navy and told them what happened. They immediately sent out several boats to help with the search. As optimistic as Nick was, the officials warned him the chances of finding Luna were slim.
Nick told officials that Luna had grown up around water, and she went swimming every chance she had. He was confident she had the strength to make it to the shores of San Clemente.
Nick was grateful to have the help of the Coast Guard and Navy, but he was still perplexed as to how Luna fell overboard. They had been on countless fishing excursions together, and not once did he ever worry about a situation like this!
Because San Clemente housed a Naval base, people generally were not allowed to visit. Officials made an exception in this case, however, and Nick was allowed to come ashore to search for Luna. He was sure he’d find her somewhere on the island.
Over the next two days, Nick traversed the entire island, calling out Luna’s name again and again, hoping she would hear him. That was when Nick realized just how unlikely it was that Luna could’ve survived San Clemente’s conditions; El Niño weather patterns meant the island was battered by surf.
Nick stayed on San Clemente for two more days. He knew he couldn’t take advantage of the Navy’s generosity, so he was forced to eventually return home without Luna. After a long, emotional week, Luna was considered lost at sea and presumed dead.
Everyone close to Nick could clearly see how distraught he was after he returned home. His friend and fishing partner, Conner Lamb (below), said, “He was devastated.” Would Nick ever get over the loss of Luna?
Nick knew he had to accept the fact that he was most likely never going to see Luna again. He took to Facebook to post a few pictures of her to honor the time they spent together. It was Nick’s last tribute to his best friend.
Still grieving, Nick was forced to return to life as usual. A few weeks after the ordeal, he left town on a trip to Arizona to help clear his head. It was time for him to start rebuilding his world without his companion.
Meanwhile, five weeks after Luna disappeared, a group of Navy staffers arrived on San Clemente early one morning to begin some routine training. But when they stepped ashore, they were in awe of what they saw sitting on a dirt path in front of them…
To their utter disbelief, it was Luna! The sweet pup was wagging her tail and looking at the men eagerly. As soon as they called out to her, she ran right up to them, full of love and affection.
According to Melissa Booker, a Navy wildlife biologist who examined Luna after she was found, Luna’s coat had camouflaged her so well that crews couldn’t spot her. Although Luna was slightly malnourished, she was in good health; she likely survived on small rodents during the five weeks she was missing.
Because Nick was still in Arizona when he received the call, his friend Conner met the rescuers at San Diego’s Coronado Naval Base to pick up Luna. Conner was just as elated by the news, and Nick immediately headed back to San Diego.
Shortly after Nick returned home, the two best friends were finally reunited! Nick was in awe that Luna managed to survive for so long on the dangerous island. Even though Luna proved how strong-willed she was, Nick vowed to keep an extra-close eye on her when they went fishing together!