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Dog credited with saving man's life in Port St. Lucie

Man flipped into lake when wheelchair lost traction, police say
Port St. Lucie police and St. Lucie County firefighters assist a man who fell into a lake, Feb. 2022.jpg
Posted at 12:19 PM, Feb 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-04 18:29:29-05

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Man's best friend is being credited with saving his owner's life during a scare in Port St. Lucie.

The Port St. Lucie Police Department said 81-year-old Harry Smith — who uses an electric wheelchair — was walking his dog near a lake in the 100 block of Southwest Twig Avenue earlier this week, when his wheelchair lost traction, causing him to slide and flip into the lake.

Smith — who couldn't swim and was struggling to stay afloat — started screaming for help.

"Sensing his owner was in trouble, his dog began to bark loudly which alerted two bystanders across the street," the police department wrote in a Facebook post.

The good Samaritans rushed over to the lake and flagged down a Port St. Lucie police officer, who was driving in the area.

Working together, the officer and two men pulled Smith safely out of the water. He received medical attention at the scene and was cleared to return home.

Because Smith's wheelchair was damaged, the officer and St. Lucie County firefighters pushed him home.

"We are thankful for Mr. Smith’s dog and the two bystanders that helped save his life!" the police department wrote on Facebook. "And as the saying remains true…A man’s best friend is his dog."

Their bond is obvious, and Smith is the first to tell you that his dog Sarah Jane is the boss.

"She's such a good dog. Everybody in this neighborhood loves her, they all look out for her," Smith said.

Earlier this week, Smith and Sarah Jane were out for their usual walk near their home on Southwest Twig Avenue. But the wheel on Smith's electric wheelchair got stuck in the mulch, causing him to quickly lose traction.

"I tried to back around to get out of it and it went straight back instead and right down the embankment and dumped me right in the water," Smith said.

Smith said he was screaming for help as he struggled to swim closer to the grass.

Smith has had Sarah Jane for seven years. When she realized her owner was in trouble and desperately needed help she started barking frantically, trying to get anyone's attention."

"When we looked over here the dog was splashing in the water so we both ran over here and I jumped in the water," said Edward Suhling.

Suhling and his friend Jacob were working across the street. They were able to flag down a Port St. Lucie police officer who happened to be in the area.

"Only his head was above the water. The wheelchair was in the water," Suhling said.

Suhling, Jacob, and the officer jumped in, working together to pull Smith up the bank. All of them jumping into action thanks to Sarah Jane, Smith's hero.

"I gave her a treat," Smith said, laughing. "I love her, always have, always will."

And as for that officer, he helped save a life, and two days later helped bring another life, his newborn son, into the world.