Two Mercer Island Marine Patrol officers successfully rescued a man and his dog from Lake Washington as the man attempted to swim after his distressed pet.
Nate Palmer, 33, was with Juno, his 9-year-old black lab, at Seward Park in Seattle on Sept. 22 when Juno began swimming out into Lake Washington. Palmer jumped in after her when he realized she wasn’t turning around and pursued Juno for about 175 yards into the lake.
“Although it was a very nice day, it was windy out. [It was] choppy on the water and things can change in a matter of seconds,” said Cpl. David Canter with the Mercer Island Police Department. “At the time of the call, it didn’t sound like anyone was struggling… [but] we decided to step it up at that point.”
An unknown reporting party called the Seattle Harbor Patrol, who didn’t have a boat in the area, so Canter and detective Bobby Jira responded to the situation.
The officers quickly determined that neither Palmer nor Juno were wearing a life jacket and sped to reach Palmer first.
“[Jira] picked out Nate pretty quick, he was waving his arm at us,” Canter said. “Juno was probably about 75 yards away from where Nate was at the time and swimming away from him.”
Canter threw Palmer a flotation device and attempted to help him into the boat, but Palmer immediately began swimming towards Juno again.
“Obviously, human life is a number-one priority over any animal life,” Canter said. “My priority was on Nate, but I saw Nate got the [flotation device] and he appeared to be fine.”
The officers determined that because Palmer had the flotation device, wasn’t struggling and the water was a safe temperature, he was not in immediate danger. They then focused their attention on Juno.
“We were able to find Juno pretty quickly because [Nate] was pointing right at her,” Canter said. “She was a little more difficult to see because of her color… she sort of blended in with the water, but we could see her splashing.”
Juno was struggling to stay afloat, Canter said, her head went below the choppy water multiple times and she had a tennis ball in her mouth that was punctured and flattened from her clenching down on it.
“It appeared as though it wasn’t going to be much longer before she went under,” Canter said.
The officers positioned their boat perpendicular to the direction Juno was swimming, but she was whimpering and attempting to bark as she avoided the boat.
After a few attempts to pull up close enough, Canter successfully grabbed her by the collar and pulled her into the boat. The officers then circled back to pick up Palmer for a successful rescue.
“Luckily, this was an easy lesson learned,” Canter said. “But I think these are the best reminders to people. Something very bad could have happened, but everything ended up being as good as it could’ve been… Things can change in the snap of a finger out on the water.”
Canter emphasized that locals who do paddle sports or other activities in the lake should always bring proper safety equipment and be aware that the water can be deadly, even on a nice day.
Palmer was thankful that the marine patrol was able to help, according to Canter, but he did not respond to a request for comment.
“The greatest thing is that everybody ended up OK, and it was cool to see all of the time that we spend training on things actually being put into play and being second nature, or an unconscious thought process, as we completed the mission,” Canter said.