A rescue of a drowning baby otter from a near-freezing river in Minnesota was remarkable not only for the successful outcome but for the identity of the rescuer – a tiny three-legged dog waging its own battle for survival with cancer.
Wildlife officials said the otter would likely not have survived without the intervention of Gus, a six-year-old goldendoodle that had one of its back legs amputated earlier this year because of tumors.
The dog’s owner, Cleo Young, told CBS affiliate WCCO she feared her pet was “not going to be able to run like he used to” after surgery and chemotherapy.
On Easter Sunday, however, Gus swam into the St Croix river in Lakeland after spotting the newborn otter struggling.
“He came to shore and he had something in his mouth, and it turned out to be a very tiny otter,” Young said.
Young’s granddaughter Lucy told the station: “He was going after something, it was clear, but we didn’t know at first. He was really gentle. And I think he knew it needed help, and so he brought it right to us.”
The family took the otter to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville, after which it was sent to another facility for more intense treatment.
Staff told Young the dog’s intervention almost certainly saved the otter’s life because it could not have survived in the water outside its mother’s den.
Young said the family’s efforts were now turning back to Gus’s own preservation, with more sessions of chemotherapy to complete.