It takes a special kind of person to jump into a freezing river to save a complete stranger. But how about to save a stray dog? It takes the kind of person who obviously cares for animals, but is also dedicated to their job. And being a Humane Officer is a job Don Ely didn't even know he wanted until he needed it.
Elkhart County Humane Officer Don Ely was called out for a couple of stray dogs near Davis Street on Elkhart's east side. He tracked one of them through the woods to the Elkhart River. The small dog was already in the water, but the strong current swept her under the thin ice near shore.
"Once you see the dog and it's drowning in front of you all the other thoughts, worries and everything go out the window,” said Ely. “You just jump in."
He broke through the ice. The freezing water was up to his waist. With the help of a police officer, Ely and the dog got out safely. Then it took another 10 minutes to get back to the shelter.
"Once Don got her here her temperature was so low that it wouldn't even read on the thermometer,” said Kristina Miller, Kennel Supervisor for the Elkhart County Humane Society. “It took about 40 minutes to actually get her temperature back up to normal."
"To me I think that's the harder part of the job right there,” said Ely. “It's the waiting to see how they're gonna turn out."
Jumping in the river is not something Ely necessarily wanted to do, but what he felt he had to do. Kind of the same reason he left a factory job to become a Humane Officer 2 and a half years ago.
"When I seen the opportunity in the paper I decided to think outside the box,” said Ely. “The economy was bad at the time for the RVs. So I decided to try something different."And there's at least one life that's glad he did. Staff at the Humane Society have nicknamed the dog Ely saved Pup-cicle. She's one of the reasons Ely plans to keep the job he didn't even know he wanted.