Belfast Telegraph

Man’s bid to save his floundering dog from swollen river sets off a huge search and rescue operation

Michael Rooney with his Golden Retriever Mia
Michael Rooney with his Golden Retriever Mia
Golden Retriever Mia

By Mary Magee

It was a routine walk which turned into a dramatic rescue for a Glenavy man and his beloved pet dog.

Michael Rooney (21), a final year mental health nursing student, jumped into the Glenavy river on Monday evening to save two-year-old Golden Retriever Mia.

She was carried along with the current for around 100 metres before he was able to reach her and pull her to safety.

Concerned residents saw the man in the river and contacted the police, ambulance and fire service. A helicopter was also deployed.

Six foot tall Michael had taken his beloved 30kg dog down to the path behind a youth club around 5.30pm when the drama unfolded.

"I had just come back from a run and was taking Mia for a walk," Michael said. "There's a river where we usually go and throw a ball in for her to jump in and get.

"When I threw the ball in, the current was unusually strong due to the recent heavy rainfall and took it away through the middle underpass of the bridge."

Michael ran to the first underpass where there was no water to see if he could get his beloved pet.

He frantically shouted at her, but he could see the ball had been carried along with the current with the dog chasing after it.

Michael tried to shout to the dog to get her back and panicked when he could no longer see her.

"She rounded the corner up the river and I couldn't see her any more," he said. "I started to panic because I knew there is not really anywhere she could've got to safety further down."

Michael, wearing his running shorts, started to wade through the middle of the river waist high in the hope that the dog had already got out.

However, when he saw that the dog was in trouble, he knew he had to rescue her.

"I saw her trying but failing to swim against the current towards me," said Michael. "I was really worried. I thought she would have just gone along the river, but when I got to her I realised that she could not swim against the current.

"Mia's head was above the water when I got to her. I dragged her by the collar and pushed her up the embankment."

Michael was then able to get to safety out of the forest some yards away at the bottom of Chestnut Glen.

"I met two people and explained what happened," he said.

Michael was unaware of the drama that the dog had caused.

"An hour later the two came to my door saying there was a search and rescue team out looking for me," he said.

"We went down to the village where there was a helicopter, police fire crew and ambulance waiting."

He spoke to the rescue team and explained what had happened and they called off the search.

Michael said that despite the whole episode being very distressing, he would do it all again just to save his pet.

"I was going with the current until I got to her," he said.

"I didn't feel that I was in danger at the time as I was too worried about Mia. I think any dog owner would do the same.

"I know you hear stories of people dying trying to get to save their dogs. Luckily, this river wasn't too deep."

Michael continued: "I don't think that I was brave. I just think that I reacted to the situation as anyone else would have.

"It was quite upsetting when I could not see Mia as I was afraid she would keep going up the river."

The whole drama unfolded when Michael was home on his own. His mother, father and younger brother were holidaying in America. He contacted them and reassured them that all ended well.

"I think Mia is completely oblivious the drama she caused," added Michael. "It was probably just a bit of fun for her."

He thanked the emergency services for their time.

Local councillor for the area, David Honeyford, praised the emergency services for their swift actions and also spoke of the dangers of getting into water to save a pet.

"No one was in any immediate danger, but to get into freezing, moving water after a pet could have put lives at risk," he said.

"Thankfully, this story had a happy ending but it could have been a lot different. I would like to commend the emergency services for their quick actions."

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