Off-duty deputy jumps into pond, rescues pet

An off-duty sheriff’s department deputy jumped into a cold pond, saving the life of a 5-year-old Labrador retriever when it didn’t appear the animal could hold on until a rescue boat arrived.

With the air temperature in the low 70s, Mackenzie Wayant of County Road 300N southwest of Hartsville said she didn’t think anything of it when one of her two dogs, Lucy, jumped into the pond behind her house on Friday.

But when the yellow Labrador got hold of a buoy attached to a fixed structure and refused to let go, it eventually prompted Wayant, 23, to get into the water herself, she said.

“It was so cold, it took my breath away,” said Wayant, who said she may have gotten a slight case of pneumonia from the experience.

While she was able to eventually coax Lucy back to the shore, her other Labrador, Rango, immediately jumped into the pond after Lucy let go and grabbed the buoy himself, she said.

For several minutes, Wayant tried to convince Rango to let go and swim to shore, but nothing seemed to work, she said.

“He was determined not to let go of the buoy, and I was determined not to get back in that icy cold water again,” Wayant said.

Wayant eventually decided to have a neighbor keep an eye on Rango as she took Lucy back inside the house and called 911, she said.

Although Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Deparrtment deputy Adam Warner arrived within six minutes, the dog still refused to let go of the anchored float in the middle of the deep pond, Wayant said.

By the time off-duty deputy Andrew Dougan arrived, the dog had been treading water for about 25 minutes and was showing signs of distress and exhaustion, Wayant said.

After she told Dougan and Warner that she didn’t think her black Labrador retriever could stay afloat another 10 minutes until a rescue boat arrived, Dougan decided to use his training as a member of the Bartholomew County Water Rescue Team.

He took off his shoes, put on a life preserver, tied a rope to himself, and swam out to the middle of the pond where the dog-paddling canine was still struggling, Wayant said.

Initially, Rango still stubbornly refused to let go of the buoy after Dougan reached him, but eventually the deputy was able to coax the dog into loosening his grip and pulled the animal away, Wayant said.

With the assistance of Warner and volunteer firefighters on the other end of the rope, both Dougan and Rango was brought safely back to dry land.

While crediting Dougan with saving the life of her dog, Wayant described Rango as an obedient pet whose behavior that day was unusual.

“I think he saw me with Lucy, and thought it was some kind of game,” Wayant said.

Members of the Hartsville Volunteer Fire Department also responded to the scene, as well as an ambulance from Columbus Regional Hospital that was on stand-by.

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5636.