Dog owners express sympathy to family

A local family that had been searching for its lost dog expressed sympathy to relatives of the woman who died trying to save him.

The unidentified family released a statement Wednesday through the Columbus Police Department saying it was deeply saddened by the death of Jacquelyn (Kleine) Watts, 33, the former Columbus woman from Indianapolis, who drowned in the Flat Rock River while trying to rescue their dog, Ringo, on Friday night, in Columbus.

Police said the family lives close, but not in the Riverside Drive area where Watts left her car running with the flashers on and attempted to catch the dog, after dropping off her own dogs and a rabbit at her family’s home and her in-laws’ home nearby.

It is unknown how long the small white dog had been lost before Watts saw it and began trying to catch it along the Flat Rock River banks, entering the water heading south somewhere near a low-head dam, police said. Two witnesses said they saw Watts attempting to catch the dog sometime between 2 and 4 p.m. Friday afternoon. She was reported missing at 5 p.m. Friday and police and first-responders combed the area overnight trying to find her.

Watts’ body was found at 8:01 a.m. Saturday on a sandbar in the river, about a half mile south of Riverside Drive. Her cause of death is listed as accidental drowning, pending toxicology results, the Bartholomew County Coroner’s office said.

On Sunday, Columbus Police officers found Ringo’s body south of Noblitt Park on the east bank of the East Fork White River. In a Monday news conference, police released a social media plea the family had issued while the dog was missing that said Ringo was ill with vision problems and nearly deaf. “If you find him, please offer him food,” the post said. “Otherwise, he’ll run away.”

The statement from Ringo’s family reads:

“We are deeply saddened by the terrible accident that took the life of Jacquelyn (Kleine) Watts. We will be forever grateful to Jackie for being so brave when trying to save Ringo. We understand why she did it. Jackie’s passion was to rescue animals in need; Ringo himself was a rescued dog.

“Ringo was a very special dog. His family found him five years ago roaming the streets and took care of him, as they have done with several other dogs. His owner is also dedicated to saving stray dogs and placing them in homes where they can live a better life surrounded by love. Ringo was a best friend to us and took care of his human brother and sister on endless nights. He loved his family and his family loved him back.

“Jackie’s death will not go unnoticed. Without knowing her in person, she has already changed our lives, and many others, for the better.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to Jackie and her family. They will always hold a special place in our hearts.”

Ringo’s family ended its statement with a request for privacy at this time.

A Mass of Christian Burial for Watts is scheduled to be at noon today at St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, 1306 27th St., Columbus, with visitation at the church from 11 a.m. to noon today.

How to help

To honor Jacquelyn (Kleine) Watts love of animals, memorial contributions may be made to Indy Claw Animal Rescue through Barkes, Weaver & Glick Funeral Home, 1029 Washington St.

Online condolences and memories may be shared with the family at barkesweaverglick.com

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.