Jarrad Houghton shudders to think what might have happened had he not let his dog Basil investigate a splash in the water at the Kingston Foreshore on Friday evening.
He was walking his faithful rottweiler through the busy restaurant strip of the foreshore when the dog heard a splash in the adjacent waters of Lake Burley Griffin and “insisted on checking it out”.
Jarrad Houghton with his dog Basil came to the rescue of a child that fell into the lake at Kingston Foreshore. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos
What they saw next, chilled Jarrad to the bone.
“We got close to the water’s edge to see a little hand sticking out of the water,” he said.
“[I] quickly reached down and the hand was attached to a [eight]-year-old girl.”
Jarrad quickly pulled the girl out, and returned her to her parents who were inside at a nearby restaurant. No one else had noticed her go in.
“She was a little shaken and sopping wet, but otherwise fine,” he said.
Jarrad posted the story on the Canberra Notice Board Group Facebook page on Friday night.
Some people were quick to condemn the parents but Jarrad said it was just a case “of kids being kids”.
The little girl had apparently been playing a game of balance on the edge of the boardwalk when she slipped in. Jarrad said he didn’t see her go in. It was the insistence of 10-month-old Basil that made him walk down to the boardwalk and the water’s edge.
“She was really struggling,” Jarrad said. “I liken it to a cat scrambling to get out. I still get goosebumps thinking about what might have happened if Basil had not been there with me.”
The family of the rescued girl, who did not wish to be named, offered their sincere thanks to Jarrad and Basil.
“She is a very competent swimmer or we would not have allowed her anywhere near the water,” the mother said.
“We have, in fact, talked to her about the places that you can get out if ever you fall in. Because she is very much an active kid and risk taker, we make sure we have these conversations.
“She would have been okay. That said, we are very thankful to Jarrad and his doggy who got her out quickly.”
Jarrad said the reason he posted the story was not to draw attention to himself or Basil or the parents, but to remind people that rottweilers got a bad rap, particularly in movies like The Omen. But like many so-called “scary” breeds, rottweilers were loving and faithful dogs if they were treated properly.
“Next time you see my ‘scary’ rotti on our walk, just remember, he saved someone’s life and daughter tonight.” he wrote on the post
Jarrad had grown up around rottweilers since he was six. He always approached any dog with caution. But he believed dogs should not be condemned because of their breed or how they were portrayed in a movie.
“I’m a very firm believer it’s the environment they grow up in; the breed doesn’t matter,” he said.
“Basil is like any dog that has been loved and care for. Big or small; greyhound or German shepherd, my approach is a firm and loving hand.”
Basil – who was deliberately named after the character in Fawlty Towers to disarm people and get them comfortable – got a special treat and brush on Friday night.
“He eats duck and salmon and all kinds of things. I think I spend more on food for him than on myself,” Jarrad said.
Jarrad was blown away by the support from people on the page, many rottweiler owners who agreed with his sentiments.
He followed it up with a post saying he would be back at the foreshore on Saturday evening.
“Come and say hello with a new-found respect for my loving dogs who just so happen to be called rottweilers,” he said.
The story was the ultimate antidote to recent dog attacks in Canberra.
”I just wanted to combat some of the negative press,” Jarrad. “I would hate for someone to ring up and complain about a dog because they didn’t like the breed based on what they had seen in a movie.”