A dog named Cooper is hailed a hero after he swam to the rescue of an autistic boy who clung to a wall in the Tennessee floods and stayed with him until rescuers arrived.
Cooper, a six-year-old cross between the Great Pyrenees and Labrador, went into water during Saturday’s massive flood that killed at least 22 people, destroyed hundreds of homes and devastated families across the region.
A rescue crew member described to DailyMail.com how Cooper was found nestled against a young boy trapped in the water, desperately clinging to a wall.
The boy was rescued and the dog suffered a graze on his bottom, but his energy was still intact when he arrived at the clinic, licking the staff with its tail waving endlessly.
“We’ve been calling him Big Hero Dog all week,” said veterinarian Dr. Jessica Peek. She owns the Waverly Animal Clinic where Cooper ended up after his long and tiring day.
“He’s a living sweetheart and we gave him lots of treats and told him he’s a hero,” she told DailyMail.com.
Cooper, a six-year-old crossbreed from the Great Pyrenees and Labrador, swam to the rescue of an autistic boy on Saturday who was clinging to a wall
“We’ve been calling him Big Hero Dog all week,” says veterinarian Dr. Jessica Peek, owner of the Waverly Animal Clinic.
Hundreds of pets also became entangled in the floodwaters and were left separated from their owners.
Dozens of dogs and cats were taken to the local clinic, where they were bandaged and cared for, while evangelistic efforts were made to reconnect them with their families.
Several propane tanks were set up in the back of Waverly Animal Clinic to boil water for the animals if the water supply failed.
Cooper was an instant celebrity when he was dropped off at the clinic late Saturday morning.
“Come here, Big Hero Dog, I’ve got a treat for you,” Dr. Peek gushed Tuesday as she gave Cooper a chicken-flavored snack and hugged him on the lawn.
Cooper’s owner, Caitlyn Rochelle, was preparing to pick him up this week after learning where he was.
“I cried,” Rochelle told DailyMail.com of the rescue story. “It was no surprise that he saw someone else in distress and went after him.”
“He’s always been a good dog, a great animal for emotional support,” she explained. “When my dad and I get depressed, Cooper feels it and sits down and lays his head on us.”
Rochelle said a tree had fallen through her roof on Saturday morning and water was pouring into her home in Waverly.
“We lost everything we had,” she said.
Cooper was staying with Rochelle’s father when “he was swept away,” she said.
Rapidly rising waters have killed at least 22 people, flooded hundreds of homes and destroyed families across the region
Pictured is what remains of buildings in downtown Waverly, Tennessee
Hundreds of pets were also entangled in the floodwaters and left separated from their owners
dr. Peek said this was just one of many stories from the past week.
“You feel a little helpless and don’t know what to do when people are trapped and looking for their pets,” the vet said. “We’ve tried to give pets a safe place so that owners can do other things they have to deal with.”
She described an elderly woman who initially refused to be rescued without her two cats, even as her home began to shift during the flood.
“She wouldn’t leave with rescuers until someone took care of her cats,” the vet said.
The woman was able to pick up her two cats on Monday.
Another cat named Leo and dog Remi ended up at the clinic after a daring rescue involving brothers on jet skis. Leo was plucked from the roof into a basket, while Remi resisted.
“The dog was 120 pounds of game and I found that he got himself to safety,” Peek said.
Then there was an elderly woman with a small epileptic dog, who is currently sleeping in a shelter after being flooded from their house.
“I’m giving him his epilepsy medication that was washed away,” she said. “Her pet is everything to her. She now attends a local church, but she has her dog Bo George and his epilepsy medicine, so she’s fine.”