Elsie went missing last week while owner Dennis Carter and his wife were on vacation. They left on Tuesday, and panicked when they returned Friday to find her gone.
“That really left an empty hole in my heart thinking about that amount of time we were away from her without any care,” Carter said.
In their absence, the 15-year-old partially blind and deaf dog somehow managed to escape their home and found her way to a nearby river. Shortly thereafter, she fell or dove in – and nearly drowned.
“The river is right there and that’s where we take them,” Carter explained. “My thought is that she just walked down there and fell off the dock.”
Brian Peterson was jet skiing in the area on the 4th of July when someone alerted him to a dog struggling in the water.
“Elsie was drowning,” Peterson recalled. “I got on my jet ski, went over and jumped out and saved her.”
Peterson’s girlfriend Dana Moylan watched nervously as he secured the dog and brought her to shore. “When she was brought up on the island she was almost dead,” Moylan said. “I could tell she was blind.”
Despite media coverage of the rescue, no one came forward to claim the dog. Peterson said he was determined to get her back to her owners if he could locate them.
“We took her home with us and started the process of putting found dog [fliers] out there,” he said. “We had already got her out on the humane society website and put her out on Craigslist under found dogs.”
That determination paid off – Carter, searching for Elsie, found one of the flyers Peterson had put up.
“He hung it and within the hour I saw it,” Carter said.
Late Saturday afternoon, Carter and Elsie enjoyed an emotional reunion in Gibsonton. Carter said he was thrilled to have his old friend back, and that he made another new friend today.
“This is a great ending to what could have been a sad story,” he said, referring to Peterson’s actions. “I think we’ll become friends for life.”