In March 1950, Duane Denney lost his best friend, Diablo the dog, in the rapids of Bear Creek. - Bill Miller

Duane Denney's little pal, Diablo

Diablo was a boy's best friend. For three years, with his tongue lapping in the breeze, Diablo rode in the front wire basket on Duane Denney's bike.

The 11-year-old boy and his frisky blue terrier were constant companions and each seemed to know what the other was thinking.

It was obvious Diablo thought he was a member of the family, and to Duane, he was nothing less than a little brother.

They spent hours in the yard of their North Grape Street home, Duane the patient teacher and Diablo the eager student.

Duane's little friend was a quick study and he was proud of the way Diablo never failed to follow an order.

On a Sunday afternoon in March 1950, a little bit of misty rain and temperatures in the high 40s couldn't keep Duane and a school friend from having some fun before returning to class in the morning.

The boys hopped on their bikes, and Diablo took his front-row seat in the wire basket.

Down Medford's Main Street they flew, over the bridge and on to Bear Creek Park, Diablo's wiry coat rippling with excitement.

Diablo came from a long line of retrievers, and when the boys began to throw sticks and stones he knew exactly what to do.

They dropped their bikes on the ground and started walking along the fast moving creek, skipping stones along the bank.

Diablo captured every one, running them back to the boys, dropping them at their feet and waiting for that moment when Duane would tell him what a good dog he was.

As they approached the Main Street Bridge, one of the stones went a little too far and splashed into the creek. Diablo was close behind.

"I saw my dog fall in the water under the bridge," Duane said. "Then he was washed over the falls at the west end. He never came out of the whirling water."

The boys ran down the creek, but Diablo had disappeared. They ran home, and Duane's mother returned with them to help search. Two hours later they gave up.

For the next two days, Duane was up early, checking Diablo's empty box, hoping he had found his way back home and hadn't drowned.

Duane blamed himself for the missing dog, who had only been following orders.

He sent a letter to the Mail Tribune.

"If someone finds my little pal washed somewhere along the bank, please let me know. For this information I cannot pay, but will thank you sincerely."

The next morning he got a telephone call from a schoolboy who said he had seen Diablo's body lodged against a pipe that jutted into the creek under the Jackson Street Bridge.

Diablo was buried in the family's yard.

In another letter to the Tribune, Duane thanked the schoolboy who had called him and also the man who had waded into the cold creek to recover Diablo.

"I gave my little pal his last ride in the basket on my bicycle where he had enjoyed riding so many times before," Duane said.

"I thank you, one and all, for your kind words."

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

Share This Story