A Thanksgiving all the way around as a dog is rescued from death on the Flathead River

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Facebook and the efforts of Tony Dewindt and Jake Kirby helped lead to the rescue of this young dog from along the banks of the Flathead river early Wednesday morning. (Jake Kirby photo)

Social media and the heroic efforts of a pair of local men helped lead to the rescue of a stranded dog along the Flathead River between Columbia Falls and Hungry Horse early Wednesday morning.

Brittany Meyer was traveling on Highway 2 around 4 p.m. Tuesday when she noticed a black spot on the bank of an island in the Flathead River below Teakettle Mountain. After stopping her car to get a better look, Meyer realized the black spot was a stranded dog. After calling Flathead County animal control, Meyer attempted to find a way to reach the dog, but was unsuccessful.

“You could tell that he was weak, tired and in pain. We couldn’t just leave him there,” Meyer said. “It was getting dark, but I felt that if we didn’t do something right then, it would end badly. I just couldn’t leave it there without trying to help.”

So Meyer reached out on Facebook with a post asking for help to rescue the dog while she waited to hear from animal control. Once on scene, animal control determined that it was too dark to proceed until the morning, leaving the dog stranded on the island.

Meyer’s cry for help on Facebook spread quickly, with more than 300 shares in only a few hours. It was later that evening that the pair that would eventually rescue the dog made contact.

Tony Dewindt and Jake Kirby arranged to meet Meyer along the river at 11 p.m. and quickly devised a plan to make the rescue. After making their way to the opposite bank of the river, the pair used rock climbing gear to make their way down the more than 100 feet of steep embankment to the river. Once there, they crossed to the island and began their search.

After a few minutes of searching, the pair found the dog in nearly the same spot it been spotted by Meyer earlier, curled up along the bank less than two feet from the river.

“We almost missed him. If he hadn’t popped his head up so his eyes caught the light of our flashlight, we never would have seen him,” Dewindt said.

Unable to get close to the scared animal, Dewidnt improvised, using a rope and a stick to make a catchpole, which he used to secure the dog.

“He didn’t like me at first, when I was using the catch pole to secure him. Once he figured out I was trying to help him, he wouldn’t leave my side.”

The young black lab and Rottweiler mix was cold and suffering from a number of injuries, including a deep cut on its neck, a gash that split its left ear, another wound on its rear end and mange.

Dewindt did the only thing he could, he threw the bleeding animal over his shoulder and climbed back up to his truck. Once there, the dog quickly fell asleep in the heat of the cab as Dewindt returned home around 2:30 a.m. to grab a few hours of sleep before taking the dog to the vet first thing in the morning.

Knowing he would be facing a substantial vet bill, Dewindt was still determined to do what he could to help the dog.

Once again, Facebook helped the community come to the rescue. Meyer posted that Dewindt would be taking the dog to the vet in the morning, and when Dewindt arrived at The Animal Clinic of Kalispell at 8 a.m., he found that $175 had already been donated before he ever got there.

As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, more than $885 had been donated towards vet services for the dog, which Dewindt plans to adopt and has named Valor. If donations exceed the cost of the vet bill, the clinic says it will donate the rest to a local animal shelter.

It took the better part of the night and the help of the community, by Meyer said she is glad everything turned out well and that she is incredibly thankful for the efforts of the two men whom she had never met.

“It was not an easy spot to get to, especially in the dark. It is amazing that Tony and Jake were able to get to the dog and rescue it when they did,” she said. “Without the community’s help, none of this would have been possible. I am just so thankful someone was able to successfully retrieve the dog from the island.”

Dewindt said he was only doing what he hoped anyone would do.

“I have two dogs myself and if one of mine was down there trapped, I hope someone would do what I did,” he said. “It was just the right thing to do.”

Valor was in his second surgery Wednesday afternoon, but is expected to make a full recovery and should be going home with Dewindt soon.

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