Eighty-one-year-old Harry Smith—who uses an electric wheelchair—was walking his beloved 9-year-old beagle mix, Sarah Jane, near a lake in Port St. Lucie, Florida when the pleasant jaunt took a turn for the worse.
Smith says that the left wheel of the chair “grabbed and spun me” and he wound up rolling down a grass embankment into the water. Smith can’t swim, could barely keep his head above the water and without immediate help would have drowned.
Sarah Jane began to bark loudly, capturing the attention of Edward Suhling, 58, who was working on a trailer with Aby “Jacob” Chacko, 49. “Sensing his owner was in trouble, his dog began to bark loudly which alerted two bystanders across the street,” the Port St. Lucie police department wrote in a Facebook post.
At first, Suhling thought that the dog was being attacked by an alligator, then he saw Smith’s head poking out of the water. Suhling and Chacko ran over to the pond, flagging down a police officer along the way.
Harry was out walking his dog, Sarah Jane, when his wheel got caught in the mulch, turning him around and down into the pond. \n\nNeighbors heard Sarah Jane barking and Harry yelling \u201cHELP!\u201d \n\[email protected] were flagged down. \n\nThey all helped him out, saving his life. @CBS12pic.twitter.com/0s8fygh5zx
— Andrew Lofholm (@Andrew Lofholm)
“As soon as I got here I saw the wheelchair and the dog and I recognized that’s Harry and I know he can’t walk,” Chacko said. Smith was in terror fighting for his life in the pond. “My legs don’t work,” he said. “I can’t push.”
“The dog was splashing in the water,” Suhling said. “So we both ran over here and I jumped in the water, and my buddy grabbed his arms and I grabbed his legs and we got him up on shore.”
After Smith was safely out of the water, the police officer administered medical attention and he was cleared to go home. Unfortunately, his wheelchair didn’t work, so the officer pushed him back to his home.
The Port St. Lucie Police Department later called the Suhlih, Chacko, and Sarah Jane heroes on its Facebook page. “We are thankful for Mr. Smith’s dog and the two bystanders that helped save his life!” the police department wrote on Facebook. “And as the saying remains true…A man’s best friend is his dog.”
“She’s such a good dog,” Smith later said about Sarah Jane. “Everybody in this neighborhood loves her, they all look out for her.” After the pair made it home safely, Smith was sure to give his dog a treat. “I love her, always have, always will,” he said.
While the dog’s heroics are pretty amazing, there are a couple of reasons why Sarah Jane knew that Smith was in danger and sprang into action. A lot of dogs have a strong fear of water. Not all of them love it like labradors. If Sarah Jane was afraid of the water, she would have sensed her guardian was in serious danger.
Secondly, a study from Arizona State University in 2020 tested whether dogs will help if they thought their owner was in trouble. For the study, owners called out to the dog while appearing to be trapped inside a box. In most instances, the dogs attempted to free their owners after hearing them cry for help.
The story of Sarah Jane and her guardian Harry Smith proves, once again, that we just don’t deserve dogs.