Article Launched: 05/17/2006 01:00:00 AM MDT
denver & the west
Dog plucks boy from raging river
By Steve Lipsher
Denver Post Staff Writer
Ryan Rambo, 9, was saved Sunday by Chelsea Bennett, 13, and her dog, Zion. The dog dragged Ryan, who was yelling for help, out of the Roaring Fork River, and Chelsea warmed him with a wrap before seeking aid. (Post / Helen H. Richardson)
Tossed from a raft and struggling to get to shore as he was swept down the roiling Roaring Fork River south of Glenwood Springs over the weekend, 9-year-old Ryan Rambo was yelling for help and needed a hero.
It came in the form of a yellow Labrador retriever.
Zion - not yet 2 years old and decidedly untrained, according to his owner - swam out to the frightened Glenwood lad and returned to shore with the youngster clinging to his collar.
"He was scared. He said he didn't know if anybody knew he fell in the water. He thought he was out there pretty much by himself, and then here comes this dog," said Ryan's mother, Deana. "It was just unbelievable."
Chelsea Bennett, 13, was playing with Zion at the water's edge when Ryan bobbed past in the currents shouting, "Help!"
The dog "usually doesn't go into the river until someone throws a ball or a stick," said Chelsea's mother, Robin. "I think the dog sensed something was wrong and went out there. The dog isn't well-trained, I can tell you that."
The heroic episode began Sunday afternoon when Rambo family friend Kevin Doran, 47, invited the second-grader to join him on a promised raft trip during the height of the spring runoff.
Shortly into their journey, Doran reported, the raft struck a submerged log and flipped on a rock, tossing them into the water.
"I wasn't really thinking that much. I was just trying to crawl back into the boat," said Ryan, who was wearing a life vest. "The water was very cold, and I was trying to swim."
When Doran surfaced, he could not immediately find Ryan. He swam to shore and flagged down a passing motorist to call for help.
A short distance downstream, Deana Rambo waited for the duo at their pullout spot and saw the overturned raft floating by.
"Needless to say, my heart just stopped," she recalled.
Running upstream along the bank, she encountered a police officer who confirmed that he was looking for a missing boy in the river. Over the next hour, she joined the search for her son, fearing the worst.
"I'm thinking that he's dead because
they won't tell me anything. It was horrible," she said.
Finally, word came over the police radio that searchers had spotted Ryan walking with Chelsea and Zion toward a footbridge about a half-mile downstream from where he was lost.
Dragged ashore by Zion, Ryan was shivering from his estimated 20 minutes in the water, and Chelsea sat him in the sun- warmed sand of a little beach and covered him with a wrap before seeking help.
"I was happy I was there and could help," Chelsea said.
When she returned home, she didn't mention the incident to her mother until a sheriff's deputy knocked on their door.
"I think she was a little embarrassed by it," said Robin Bennett. "I'm very proud of her."
On Tuesday, Ryan sent a bouquet of flowers to Chelsea and brought gifts to Zion.
Meanwhile, Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said some commendation is in order for both Chelsea and Zion.
"I've never heard anything like that before," he said, crediting Zion with saving the boy's life. "It's awesome."
The Rambos, who moved to Glenwood from Marrero, La., last fall after Hurricane Katrina damaged their home, had a similar yellow Lab that they had to relinquish to an acquaintance when they moved into a rental property.
"He said it looked just like Zoe," Deana Rambo said of her son's hero. "It was so cool."
Staff writer Steve Lipsher can be reached at 970-513-9495 or [email protected].