Tonawanda Man Saves Dog From Ellicott Creek; After Treatment at SPCA, Dog Reunited With Owner

January 6, 2023
BY: SPCA Social Media Coordinator Jillian LeBlanc

UPDATE, February 18, from Tammi in our Admissions Department:
We had a very special guest visit us this morning in Admissions and we are still crying very happy and thankful tears!  You may recall our precious boy Rufus, who was pulled from Ellicott Creek not too long ago by a wonderful and brave man named Jim.  Jim jumped into action the moment he saw Rufus struggling in the creek and pulled him to safety and brought him to us immediately for emergency medical care.  Rufus was reunited almost immediately with his family and we found out sweet Rufus was a gentle senior that they loved very much!

Rufus, Mr. Keane and Liam stopped in today with a ton of wonderful dog treats for our dogs and two BEAUTIFUL thank you cards, one from the Keane family and one from Pamela Giannantonio, the principal at St. Andrews Country Day School.  The children from Liam’s school collected all of these wonderful donations and we are so grateful!!!  Mr. Keane also informed us that Jim, Rufus’ hero, has stayed in contact with the family and just visited them recently…….sounds like a beautiful book and movie needs to be made regarding this incredible heart warming story!!! ”

–All the best stories have happy endings, and this story is no exception!

Rufus arrives, shivering, at the SPCA

Earlier today, Town of Tonawanda resident Jim Skoney was driving down Ellicott Creek Road in Tonawanda when he noticed three cars were parked along the creek, with people standing near the edge of the water. Jim stopped to see what was happening and noticed a small dog was struggling in the water, head bobbing up and down.

Jim says he did “what anyone would have done,” but it was much more than that. Jim laid down on the steep bank of the creek as one onlooker held onto his legs, ensuring Jim himself didn’t plunge into the water, and did everything he could to rescue the dog. As the current started pulling the dog out of reach, Jim said, “I called to him and he suddenly turned his head and tried swimming against the current. He made every attempt to stay above water, swimming in my direction, but he was repeatedly going underwater and rapidly losing energy.”

The SPCA’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allison Kean

Just as it seemed the dog would go under without the energy to swim up, Jim was able to grasp him by the neck and pull him back to shore. Once back to safety, Jim wrapped the dog in his coat to keep him warm and cranked up the heat in his car. Jim knew he needed to get the dog to a veterinarian quickly. After a local veterinary clinic refused treatment because there was no owner to pay veterinary bills, Jim brought the dog to the SPCA Serving Erie County to ensure he survived.

And survive he did.

The SPCA’s Sally Budik covers Rufus as rescuer Jim gets a little kiss

When Jim arrived, the shivering, senior dog (who we now know is named Rufus!) was rushed straight to our infirmary, where our incredible veterinary team, led by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allison Kean, made sure he was healthy and warm. While the veterinary team worked on Rufus, Admissions staff contacted local animal control facilities. Admissions counselor Shannon shared word of the dog with Tonawanda representatives and was quickly called back with news of a possible owner who works for the town!

Joe, Rufus’ owner, shared with us that the fence in his backyard was knocked down during the Blizzard of 2022. Wood was put up to patch the hole and keep Rufus from escaping. Unknowingly, the wood fell. Rufus, who is 18 ½ years old, deaf, and blind, somehow slipped out of the opening and eventually found his way to the creek. The rest of the story is history.

Reunited, and it feels so good! Dr. Kean brings Rufus to his dad, Joe, before introducing Joe to rescuer Jim, right.

Jim doesn’t believe he is a hero, but we do. He saved Rufus from drowning and brought him to safety.

Now, Rufus is back home, safe in his bed because of Jim’s heroic effort and our veterinary team’s diligent work (along with our donors, who ensure these life-saving efforts keep happening for the animals who need us most). This display of compassion would in no way be possible if not for Jim’s bravery. Please join us in celebrating this local hero!

Rufus, held by dad Joe, can’t wait to get home! (SPCA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allison Kean, middle, and reluctant hero of the day, rescuer Jim, right)

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