A near tragedy in Okotoks was averted on Sunday April 16.
Thanks to some quick thinking and the Okotoks Fire Department the life of an Okotoks man and his girlfriend's therapy dog were saved.
Emily Rawson and her boyfriend Greg Saulnier were out walking their three dogs on the edge of town when suddenly Emily's dog 'Buck' who's a therapy dog, suddenly disappeared.
Emily says they were just out for a walk just behind her parent's acreage when it happened.
"So, I went down with my boyfriend, his one dog and my two dogs after our family dinner and then my dog Buck he was wanting to go into the pond to swim but I didn't want him in there, so I called his name and then I turned around because my other dog was going into the water so I was calling her name and then I turned around again and I couldn't see Buck anywhere.
Buck's a therapy dog and me and him are just like soul connected so it was strange that he wasn't near me, and he wasn't coming when I was calling his name. So, there's probably about five to seven minutes of me just hollering his name and the panic just growing and growing.
And then he let out one single bark, so I knew he was around, and it sounded like there was an echo to it.
That's when I thought I could look in the storm drains because there was a few of those around. He wasn't in any of them and then he started to then panic bark and he was like screaming basically. I've never heard him bark like that before and I knew something was really wrong.
I can't remember how it all happened, but I do remember I had just looked down and I saw his face in the hole and I could just see his little whiteness around his mouth and his eyebrows, and I knew that was him."
It was at this point they realized it was an abandoned septic tank filled with water as Rawson continues with the story.
"It was so traumatizing seeing my dog that way because my dog is my baby... I was having a panic attack at that point. That's when I turned around because I could hear my parents coming and I turned back around, and Greg had jumped in the hole. From there they were both trapped."
While they weren't aware of it at the time it was a five-foot drop into the septic tank which was filled with 12 feet of ice-cold water.
Greg picks up the story from just before he jumped into the hole.
"We tried to reach in and grab the dog, but it wasn't working so I suggested I hold her ankles and lower her in and then she had a panic attack so started screaming for her Mom and Dad and at that point I looked down again and noticed that Buck's head was bobbing up and down in the water and his swimming was starting to slow so I knew we were kind of running out of time and options.
Once that happened, I just ripped my clothing off - my sweater, my hat, threw everything out of my pockets, my phone and there was a metal wheel kind of at the top of the entrance and the hole was not much wider than my shoulders itself.
I had to shimmy my legs in and then I grabbed onto the wheel with my right hand and then kind of lowered myself in as I shimmied my shoulders and chest through it.
Then I dropped into the water and that's when Buck started swimming over towards me, so I raised my knees and put him on my knees to give him a quick minute to catch his breath. We just looked at each other and that's when I knew we were definitely getting out of this.
So, I grabbed him by the back of the neck and then I held onto the pole, there was a pole that ran from that ceiling wheel, and I assume all the way down to the bottom of the tank. So, I grabbed onto the wheel, the back of his neck and I tried to like try and throw him in the air so her dad could try and catch him, but it was still too high.
He fell back into the water and then I grabbed lower down on his back area and that's when I grabbed a little higher up on the pole and I wrapped my feet around the pole also and I used pretty much every ounce of strength I had to throw him, and Buck's about a 60-pound dog so it really took some effort.
Once I threw him, I lost my grip on the pole and with my feet and hands and ended up falling back into the water.
Once I surfaced above the water, I noticed Buck was out and I was still in this water.
It's pitch black in there and then I took a couple seconds, caught my breath, looked around, couldn't see anything... so I grabbed onto this pole with my arms and my feet."
At this point Greg made another attempt to climb up the pole and Emily and her dad did manage to pull his arms and chest up through the hole, but they ran out of strength to finish pulling him all the way out and he fell back into the water.
"At this point I was so cold and so weak I just laid on my back a little bit, kept my feet out of the water because I'd been in there for awhile and they were starting to lose feeling, so I just wanted to elevate them.
And at this point my heart started to slow, my breathing was slowing down and I was starting to lose feeling, so I knew that hypothermia was starting to set in. I just kind of took control of my body and my mind again and I didn't let the situation escalate or scare me.
I climbed onto the pole again. Climbed up as high as I could and they [Emily and her dad] dropped down a rope and I put that under my arms and around my chest and they put some tension on it so just in case I did lose consciousness.
I'd been in the water for probably about 20-25 minutes, and I do a lot of cold plunges in the wintertime so I'm usually in cold plunges for eight to ten minutes. So, this definitely took its toll on my mind and body. It was more a mental and physical battle at this point.
I just waited it out, talked to them, talked to myself, controlled my breathing, my thoughts, my body and then a few minutes later I noticed some talking in the distance and that's when the fire chief came over and they ended up dropping a sling in.
Then I let go of the pole one hand at a time and put the sling under my arm and it wrapped around my chest and there was some tension on it.
They started to raise me, I let go and they pulled me to the surface and then once I got to the surface, I laid on the grass for a couple minutes and held on to everything around me and knew I was fine, looked around and saw Buck was okay."
Everyone has since recovered and are doing well and are extremely grateful.