It was 27 degrees, one of the coldest mornings anyone could remember in Daytona Beach, Florida, when the call came in about a puppy in distress on the banks of the Halifax River.
Daytona Beach police officers John Pearson and James Lee arrived and found a tiny pit bull, not more than a few weeks old, shivering alone under the Seabreeze Bridge. No one knows how she got there. But she was drenched. The officers figured she’d probably been in the river and somehow made her way to shore.
They took her back to their truck and turned up the heat, filming a cellphone video as they wrapped the shivering pup in a towel.
“I’m just trying to warm him up a little bit, dry him off,” Pearson said. ” … I want to take her home.”
But Pearson seemed to say that more from emotion than practicality, and the officers ended up taking the pup to the Halifax Humane Society’s shelter.
When the Daytona Beach Police Department posted pictures of the dog on its Facebook page, hundreds of people reacted and commented.
Patrol Officer Kera Cantrell had a habit of going to the Halifax shelter on her lunch break to visit the dogs and feed them cookies she would take along in a bag. Word had gotten around the police department that the dog the officers rescued was there, and Cantrell wanted to see the pup. The veterinarian at the shelter had named the dog River.
“She was this teeny tiny little thing. I grabbed her and pulled her out of the kennel she was in,” Cantrell said, recalling the first time she met River. “I put her up to my chest and she snuggled up under my neck – and went to sleep.”
Cantrell said she did not have designs to adopt another pet. She already had three rescue dogs at her house.
“But I looked at her and I said, ‘I love her, I’m taking her home,’” Cantrell said.
Cantrell got her home about two weeks ago, and said her other dogs took to River right away. Around that time, officers Pearson and Lee mentioned they had the video of the minutes after they rescued River, and the police department put it on its Facebook Page. It was viewed more than 140,000 times.
One of those viewers was Cantrell. For the first time, she saw the moments after her chilled-to-the-bone puppy was rescued from under the bridge. She watched as her coworkers tried to warm River, holding her directly in front of the truck’s heating vents until she started making small puppy grunts.
“It’s heart-wrenching,” Cantrell said. “I sat there and bawled my eyes out.”
Now, Cantrell often keeps River in a onesie made for a human baby, especially at night when the temperature dips down into the 40s.