SPRINGFIELD — Persistence paid off for a Eugene Springfield Fire boat rescue team, which on Friday saved a puppy that reportedly had been marooned on an island in the McKenzie River for more than a week.
Blondie, a 2-month-old possible Chihuahua-corgi mix, eluded rescuers during three attempts around midday Friday. Undeterred, firefighters returned shortly before sundown with a Springfield Animal Control officer and spent a couple of hours on the island near 42nd Street before getting the dog.
“That (puppy) moved around the island better than we can,” said Animal Control officer Brian Austin.
The puppy, owned by a homeless man, yelped after being cornered by two firefighters. One of the firefighters scooped up the pooch, which shrieked like a wild animal.
“I thought we caught the wrong thing at first,” fire department Capt. Riley Martinka said.
Soon Blondie warmed up to the rescuers, snuggling into a towel held by Austin.
He estimated that Blondie weighed about 6 to 8 pounds. He said the dog was in good health.
Blondie’s owner, John Gordon, 56, said the puppy had been stranded on the island for about eight days.
Earlier in the day, Gordon watched the rescue attempts from the a bank of the McKenzie River. He said he began living on the island about three months ago, before he got Blondie.
Rising water forced him off the island about a week ago. He said Blondie did not respond to his calls and he had to leave the dog behind.
Authorities were called to the river on Friday after receiving a report of a man floating in swift waters on an inflatable mattress. The man, who made it to the island, was a friend of Gordon’s trying to reach Blondie.
Firefighters took Gordon’s friend off the island about noon, but they were unable to get the dog.
Gordon said the puppy didn’t come to him a week ago or to the rescue team because it was scared and didn’t know what to think of rescuers tromping through the brush.
“I’d be running too,” Gordon said.
Austin, the animal control officer, said Friday evening that he planned to reunite Blondie with Gordon. However, Austin was going to ask whether Gordon could care for the dog.
Gordon, who said he has been staying at a friend’s house, said he also has two other puppies from the same litter as Blondie.
Islands around Eugene and Springfield attract homeless campers during the summer, Eugene Springfield Fire Battalion Capt. Ben Meigs said.
But rivers rise this time of year, he said. “Then all of a sudden a nice easy trip from the mainland out to the island becomes pretty treacherous as the water level comes up and the force of the water increases exponentially,” he said.
Water rescues typically save people, Meigs said, rather than puppies.