Arizona man jumps into canal to save another man and a dog from drowning

A Scottsdale man jumped into the Arizona Canal to save another man and his dog from drowning, and on Jan. 26, both men recounted their experience, as well as reflecting on their newfound friendship.

The incident happened about a month ago. At the time, Rich Zuccarello took his pup, named Smokey bear, out for a walk along the canal near Old Town Scottsdale.

"I take him out every morning, and I almost lost him that morning," said Zuccarello.

Smokey Bear wanted to check out the ducks, and with every step the dog edged closer and closer to the ice-cold water. The temperatures on that day was 40°F (~4°C).

"He got up on the brick part, probably about eight inches (~20cm) wide," said Zuccarello. "As soon as I saw him get up there, I called him. Instead of coming toward me, he took one step toward the water. His hind legs slipped off, and he slipped over the edge and disappeared."

Rich quickly grabbed the leash, trying to yank Smokey Bear back to the surface.

"I got his head above the water," said Zuccarello. "When I went to take a big pull to get him into my arms, his weight pulled me in, and I just flipped into the water."

In the middle of it all, Zuccarello dislocated his shoulder. He held onto his 80lbs (~36.3kg) struggling dog, and yelled for their lives.

"I felt that helpless moment where my dog and I could literally drown, or I could drown trying to rescue him," said Zuccarello.

Thankfully, Ryan Correa heard Zuccarello's cries for help.

"I heard someone across the water yell ‘help,’ and I didn't know what was going on," Correa recounted. "I look over and see him reaching for something in the water. I saw Smokey emerge. I knew there was no choice. I didn't think. I just jumped."

Correa swam across the canal, and held onto Smokey as Zuccarello hoisted himself about 18 inches (~45.7cm) onto the ledge.

"He kept going under, so once [Zuccarello] was out of the water, I told him to tug on the leash," said Correa.

"He was able to hand me the dog, and we both got up top safely," said Zuccarello. "I was like ‘thank you. You literally saved my dog.’"

Looking back, Correa said he can feel the weight of what was really at stake.

"I like dogs. I like dogs a lot, so there was no way I was gonna let a dog drown, and [Zuccarello] too. No way I was gonna let that happen," said Correa.

Zuccarello calls Correa his hero, but Correa says he does not look at it that way.

"I don't think I'm a hero. I just think I'm human," said Correa. "I'm just glad Smokey Bear and [Zuccarello] are OK."

Now, Correa has a couple of new good friends.

As for Zuccarello, he said he has learned his lesson, and he wants all pet owners to be careful when they are walking along the canal.

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