A new Cheektowaga Police patrolman received an unexpected baptism into duty and a boxer was rescued for the second time in the dog's short life on Wednesday. Both are doing well in a feel-good story to end 2020.
Our story begins at the Lancaster Small Animal Hospital, where boxer fosterer Cheryl Pietromicca was attempting to get her pet into the building for an appointment. The dog was recently rescued from a puppy mill and is very timid, according to police.
So timid, apparently, the pup didn't want to be around other people. The boxer got loose from its owner and was seen heading toward Ellicott Creek in the area near Genesee Street and Rein Road.
Temperatures hit the 40s Wednesday. No word on how cold the water was.
Police said officers checked the creek at various spots, however, its steep bank and wooded area complicated the search. Enter Cheektowaga Patrolman James Rutkowski.
Rutkowski was checking the area behind 1014 Rein Road and heard the dog whining and barking. He can be seen on police body-camera video making his way through the snow-covered woods. He spotted the boxer clinging to a tree in the creek and didn't hesitate.
"Hello. Hi. Hi, Mama. Are you okay?" said Rutkowski, now waist-deep in water. "Hi. Are you alright?"
Enter Patrolman Troy Blackchief, who arrived on the scene climbing over hillside foliage and entering the water himself.
"He's perched up on a log right now. I don't know if he's gonna bite. You don't have a dog leash, do ya?" Rutkowski asked Tailchief. "Watch out, it's slick. It's about 4' deep."
"You're gonna go right in the water," Tailchief told Rutkowski.
"I know," Rutkowski said, but he continued to comfort the dog.
The boxer was already harnessed and Rutkowski used it to help lift the animal out of the water. He then passed the pup to Blackchief, who was assisted by Cheektowaga Animal Control.
"Nice," Rutkowski said. "Can you pull me over like that?"
The dog was ultimately turned over to Pietromicca and brought back to the veterinary clinic to be checked out. This time, the pup obeyed.
Cheektowaga Assistant Chief Brian Gould said the rescue was a success thanks to the concern shown by the witness, Animal Hospital staffer Lorissa Wardman, who originally pointed out the dog in the water "and the selfless effort of the two police officers."
"(Rutkowski) is a new guy. He's only been on the force a few months. I'm not sure he knew what he was getting into. And then the other guy (Blackchief) had no choice but to assist," Gould told WBFO. "I've done a lot of reading on the subject and anything that happens near the water can go either way. I'm just glad it had a happy ending."