Home & Garden

January 6, 2014

‘Lucky dog’ is back home after rescue by police boat

Miami Beach Police scooped a struggling dog from Biscayne Bay and reunited him with his owners.

Frankie was a little dog in the middle of a big bay. Thanks to the Miami Beach Police Department’s Marine Patrol, he’s still alive.

Worried neighbors watched the blind chihuahua-cocker spaniel mix frantically doggy-paddle in Biscayne Bay for more than an hour off Miami Beach’s Venetian Islands on Monday. They called the police department’s marine patrol after their own failed attempts to help the dog.

That’s where Officer Vicente Canete comes in.

Normally, Canete patrols the waterways of Miami Beach for thieves who break into homes from the backyard. Other days, he may suit up for a dive in the salty water to search for evidence in a crime.

But Monday, Canete’s job was to save an 11-year old pooch from drowning.

His 32-foot contender boat can reach speeds of 62 mph, but in this case, Canete slowly motored close to the struggling dog. As a nine-year Marine Patrol veteran who has rescued his fair share of canines from the water, Canete knew he had to move gingerly to avoid scaring Frankie off.

To the officer’s surprise, though, Frankie paddled straight toward his boat. That’s when Canete reached down and scooped the 20-pound pooch out of the water.

“A pet’s part of the family, and when they go missing it’s a real hardship,” Canete said. “It’s rewarding because you saved a life.”

Within minutes, Frankie was back on land, this time in Neighborhood Resource Officer Ernesto Rodriguez’s squad car. The two made their way over to Alton Road Animal Hospital, where Frankie was scanned for an identification chip that many pet owners have implanted into their furry loved ones.

The chip revealed that Miami Shores couple Melissa and Jeremiah Heffron were Frankie’s owners. After a short phone call, they were on their way to retrieve the him.

“He’s a small, chunky little dog and I’m surprised honestly that he even made it,” Rodriguez said. “On top of everything, the dog was blind. He had everything working against him, and he made it and he’s a happy little guy.”

Frankie had been staying with Melissa Heffron’s parents, who live on De Lido Island. The dog must have slipped through an open sliding glass door as Heffron’s parents grilled outside, and made his way to a neighbor’s waterfront yard.

“He loves the water,” Heffron said.

Frankie was adopted when he was just a year old, while the couple lived in California. That was before the Heffrons were married or had children.

“When he came with us, he was like a little prince. We would take him everywhere with us,” Melissa Heffron said. “In the early days, he used to sleep between me and my husband, which now my kids do.”

She said her mother suggested calling the police after realizing Frankie was missing.

“I said, ‘Police aren’t going to take a call about a dog,’ ” Heffron said.

About an hour later, Rodriguez, the neighborhood resource officer, called Heffron’s cell.

“It was just so nice to know that, that help is available and they care so much. He texted me pictures of Frankie. It was above and beyond what I thought a police department would do,” Heffron said.

Once he made it home, Frankie drank some water and sprawled out on the floor for a long nap, Heffron said.

“Frankie is a lucky dog,” she said.

Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.

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