Swift water rescue team reunites 16-year-old dog stuck in Neuse River for hours with its owner

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A 16-year-old dog is home, safe and sound after a heart wrenching hour or two clinging on for life in a cold Neuse River.

Ariel Perez of Raleigh called 911 at around 6:15 p.m. Tuesday after spotting his dog, Mr. Hanley, floating down Walnut Creek toward the Neuse, only his head and collar visible above the water line.

Within minutes, the Knightdale Fire Department's Swift Water Rescue Team had their boat in the water with the help of Raleigh firefighters, who spotted Hanley stuck in some debris on the edge of the Neuse.

"We try to do a risk analysis for everything so we're going to take a higher level of risk for a human life than a dog life, but I'm a dog lover," Knightdale Firefighter Lt. Aidan Sheehan said. "I've got a nine-year-old golden lab at home. It's just important we get everybody home."

Sheehan and another crew member pulled Hanley out from some briers and fishing line.

"It just looked like the dog was trying to hold on for dear life," said Captain Matthew Toler, a Knightdale Firefighter who drove the boat. "It was kind of trying to do the doggy paddle, but once we pulled it into the boat you could tell that the dog was extremely cold and was just clinging onto Lt. Sheehan."

The crew drove back upstream and got Hanley to shore where Perez was watching and waiting.

"I was really just thankful of how passionate they were to get him out of the water," Perez said. "They were all working together to get him out."

Perez said Hanley, who is losing his eyesight, never intentionally gets into the creek that runs behind their house but must have been lured in by something.

"He's a member of the family, another member of the family to me; you can't portray it, but it's kind of like one of my kids as well," he said. "I was panicking when I couldn't find him."

After a hot bath and a warm meal, Perez said Mr. Hanley was back to himself.

"I guess he doesn't want to leave yet either," he said. "He's got a little fight left in him."
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