When Broward County police officers saw a dog in the canal, they knew they didn’t have much time left to rescue her. She was barely able to keep herself afloat, and soon she would disappear under the surface. There was no time to waste, so one of the officers jumped in.
The dog in question is a seven-year-old German Shepherd called Shasta. On January 8, 2018, Shasta should have been at her North Lauderdale home in Florida. That morning, however, curiosity got the better of her, and she escaped from a hole in her garden fence.
Shasta may not be a cat, but her curiosity proved to be just as dangerous. The German Shepherd’s explorations took her to the next block, whereupon she literally found herself in deep trouble. As a consequence of her wanderlust, Shasta ended up in a canal.
Apparently, Shasta skidded down the canal’s slippery six-foot bank. The ground was too treacherous for the dog to regain her footing, so she couldn’t climb out. And that’s when residents saw her treading water in a vain attempt to stay afloat.
One of the eyewitnesses could tell Shasta was struggling, and called local law enforcement as a result. Broward’s Sheriff’s Office answered the call, after which officers sped to the scene. Sgt. Tom Watkins described the response in his own words.
“We hopped into our vehicles right away,” Watkins told 7 News on January 8, 2018. “We got over there as fast as we could.” Watkins was also accompanied by four other officers, including deputies Nezar Hamze and Josh Stambaugh.
When they arrived, it concerned the officers to see Shasta barely keeping her head above water. On January 8, 2018, Stambaugh told CBS Miami, “We saw the dog in the water, not moving that much at all.” Subsequently, the officers tried desperately to get to Shasta.
The sheriffs dashed frantically through residential yards, and climbed over a garden fence to reach the canal. Then, on witnessing the scene, they realized why Shasta was stuck. “The dog couldn’t get out of the water because the bank was extremely steep,” Stambaugh recalled.
“And there were rocks down at the bottom of the bank, which were slippery,” Stambaugh continued. In fact, he was the first officer to try to reach Shasta from the embankment. Stambaugh’s colleagues held onto him as he tried to get to the dog.
Despite his best efforts, Shasta was so terrified that she failed to recognize help had arrived. Initially, she even tried to swim away from her rescuer as he approached the water. Indeed, Watkins told the Sun Sentinel how heartbreaking the sight was.
“You could see the sadness in her eyes and how scared she was,” Watkins described. Fortunately, the officers were prepared, and Stambaugh had an animal control rod. Although he couldn’t reach Shasta with it at first, the team managed to put her at ease.
“[She] came back in, and I was able to lasso [her],” Stambaugh told CBS Miami. Not only was the rescue recorded on bodycam, but impressed residents also witnessed the rescue. They later told news sources what happened after the officers pulled Shasta from the canal.
“She was very weak and very tired,” said neighbor Lisa Fuller. “[She was also] very wet, but the police officers dried her off.” After her rescue, the officers submitted Shasta to animal control. Then animal control officers managed to locate her humans, and uncovered a surprise.
Shasta’s owner was none other than Broward Sheriff’s deputy Doug Davis, stationed at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. In fact, Shasta’s family were beside themselves with worry trying to find her. Davis’s daughter Jasmine had been searching for the missing dog all morning.
Jasmine told 7 News, “I [was] starting to panic and, like, calling for her.” Doug Davis’s wife, Dahlia, even texted her husband to request he make an inquiry to animal control about Shasta. Naturally then, they were overjoyed to get her back, and thanked the deputies profusely.
“Thank you guys so much for finding my dog. I didn’t think I’d be able to tell you guys thank you,” Jasmine told the rescuing officers. “We’re so grateful,” Dahlia added. “I don’t know what our home would be like … if we still didn’t know where she was.”
Although Shasta isn’t an official police dog, she did receive professional guard training. It didn’t matter to the deputies, though; they just saw a life in danger and acted. As a dog owner himself, Stambaugh was especially passionate about the rescue.
“I have two German Shepherds myself, and love dogs,” Stambaugh revealed to 7 News. “We heard an animal in distress, and we all responded.” Eyewitnesses were equally impressed with the officer’s dedication, as local resident Syeda Gull described in an interview.
“The [officers] were very concerned for [the] dog. Very, very concerned, there was a lot of them out here,” Gull said. Shasta is now back with the Davis family, who are more determined than ever to mend their broken fence.
Meanwhile, the deputies are just happy they got to Shasta on time. Watkins told CBS Miami, “Knowing this was my dog or someone else’s dog, we got there as fast as we could.” They saved Shasta’s life, and her family is whole and happy once more.