Dog alerts neighbors after man in wheelchair falls into Florida pond

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A South Florida resident can truly say that a dog is man’s best friend.

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Harry Smith, 81, of Port St. Lucie, was rescued Jan. 31 after the electric wheelchair he uses lost traction in the grass, rolled down an embankment and flipped into a nearby lake while he was walking his dog, the Port St. Lucie Police Department said Friday in a Facebook post.

The left wheel of his wheelchair “grabbed and spun me,” Smith told Treasure Coast Newspapers on Friday.

Smith’s dog, a black beagle mix named Sarah, barked to alert residents, who flagged down a police officer who happened to be driving nearby.

“I love her. Always have, always will,” Smith told the newspaper. “She’s such a good dog. Everybody in this neighborhood loves her, and they all look out for her.”

Smith was unable to swim and was struggling to stay afloat after his wheelchair fell into the water, WPTV-TV reported. He began yelling for help, and the dog started barking loudly, which caught the attention of Edward Suhling, 58, who was working on a trailer with Aby “Jacob” Chacko, 49, across the street, Treasure Coast Newspapers reported.

“The dog was splashing in the water,” Suhling told the newspaper. “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.”

Chacko said he heard Smith yelling and went to investigate. On the way, he flagged down Port St. Lucie police Officer Adam Doty.

“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 told Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Smith’s wheelchair was damaged, so Doty and a St. Lucie County firefighter pushed him home, WPEC-TV reported.

During a news conference on Friday, Chacko, Suhling, and Smith returned to talk about the incident, according to Treasure Coast Newspapers. Sarah was there, too.

Doty was missing because his wife had just given birth to a son, Assistant Chief Richard Del Toro told the newspaper.

“He’s helping saving lives and creating lives at the same time this week,” Del Toro said.