July 1, 2016


It’s a warm reunion for owner, dog saved from river

Elva Rivera, girlfriend of dog owner Mark Stephen, pets Drake, an Akita mix, that spent at least 30 minutes in the frigid Black River on Monday before being rescued. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

ELYRIA — Mark Stephen hopes his 4-year-old dog, Drake, an Akita mix, has learned its lesson about what can happen when you stray.

Drake wandered from his 12th Street home sometime in the afternoon Monday. But the adventure turned dangerous when it ended up in the frigid Black River and had to be rescued by the Elyria Fire Department.

Drake was back home Wednesday, but Stephen said his dog is sticking close by — likely because of the chilling circumstances behind its journey away from home.

“Drake is a really good dog, but he’s very smart,” Stephen said.

The 54-year-old man said he had no idea how smart.

Stephen said he let Drake out into his fenced-in backyard Monday afternoon, thinking it would be safe.

“Typically, we leave him out for a little bit. He does his business, runs around and comes back to the door when he is ready to come in,” he said.

But after several minutes of silence, Stephen said he went to check on Drake and learned his dog, a member of the family since he was a puppy, had gotten out of the gate.

“The gate wasn’t latched properly, and I think he just kept using his paw until he got it all the way open,” Stephen said.

Stephen immediately went looking for Drake but did not find him.

Shortly after 4:30 p.m. Monday, firefighters got a call about a dog in the river behind 712 East Ave.

Fire Capt. Carl Mack said the dog was barking and howling when firefighters arrived but became lethargic as the rescue unfolded. He went underwater once and unsuccessfully attempted to get its paws up on the ice.

At that time, the area water temperature was 35 to 40 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

With fire Lt. Dave Knowlton rowing, firefighter Mike Wood pulled Drake into a Fire Department inflatable boat more than 30 minutes after the call came in.

“When they pulled him out of the water, he definitely didn’t give them any issue,” Mack said. “He was definitely tired at that point and probably hypothermic, and happy to be pulled out of the water.”

Drake was taken to the Lorain County Dog Kennel.

Stephen said Drake doesn’t get out often.

“The last time he got away was more than a year ago, and he came home in about 30 minutes,” he said. “When that didn’t happen Monday, I got really scared. It was New Year’s Eve, and I was really worried he was going to get hit by a car.”

Stephen said he searched all day Tuesday and even went to the dog kennel but learned it was closed for the holiday. He was still searching when a friend told him to turn on the news. There on the television was a story about a dog rescue, and Stephen said he immediately recognized the scruffy face.

He was back at the kennel first thing Wednesday morning to bring his furry friend home.

“We are very happy to have him back and are so thankful for everything that was done to rescue him,” Stephen said. “He was shaking when I went to get him out of the pen this morning. He’s fine. He’s laying here next to me right now.”

Kennel receptionist Charlotte Jones said Drake was happy and excited when Stephen walked in.

“Oh, I think he is going to be fine,” she said. “He couldn’t wait to get out of here.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.

About Lisa Roberson

Lisa Roberson has been with the Chronicle since 2006, and covers Elyria city government and public education. She can be reached at 329-7121 or LRoberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter.