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Dog rescued after truck plunges into Chewuch

Jessie stays in vehicle until swiftwater rescue team reaches her in raft; mixed breed canine awaits next adventure

— A local man is calling his dog’s rescue from the Chewuch River on Saturday a miracle.

Paul Picolet of Twisp was on his way to get a cup of coffee that morning when his parked truck rolled down an embankment behind the Winthrop Emporium, at the center of downtown, and into the river.

“It was in gear; it must have popped out of gear,” he said. “I was walking away, about 30 feet away and I heard a crunch. I looked back and it was gone.”

Jessie, a 9-year-old border collie and red and blue heeler mix, was in the bed of the truck.

At first it was completely underwater, and then it popped up to the surface under the bridge, with Jessie still inside.

“Even after it submerged under the water, she hung on,” Picolet said.

The 2009 Ford F-350 was stopped by a rock.

He called for his dog, but “she was smart enough to stay there,” he said.

“The dog, gotta give it some credit” for not panicking and jumping out of the truck to swim away, Okanogan County Chief Criminal Deputy Dave Rodriguez said.

“The dog was very happy to get rescued and was returned to (her) owner.”

With the help of the Okanogan County Swiftwater Rescue Team, Jessie was back on shore a few hours later.

The team was called in by the Winthrop Marshal’s Office, Rodriguez said.

“The river’s moving really, really quick right now, and it’s not anything you can wade out into or swim out into because of the high runoff,” he said.

Two team members – Deputy Ottis Buzzard and Vikki Buzzard, an Aero Methow Rescue Service paramedic and member of the county search and rescue team – were able to float out to the truck on a raft and pull Jessie in.

“We have an inflatable craft that is built especially for going out and rescuing mostly people, but it worked well in this case,” Rodriguez said.

“It’s such a blessing that the dog was OK and the way it hung up on the rock there, that the back of the bed didn’t fill with water,” Picolet said.

When the two were reunited, “I was crying. That was the most important thing, that she was OK.”

Picolet said he’s had Jessie since she was a puppy. She didn’t suffer any trauma from the incident.

“The next morning, she just kind of looked at me like, ‘What’s going to happen today?’” he said. “It still hasn’t stopped her from getting in the truck.”

The truck didn’t fare nearly as well, although rescue workers were able to tug it out of the river.

Picolet is lamenting the loss of his truck, which had only 25,000 miles on it, as he waits for his insurance company to work things out so he can buy another vehicle.

“Everyone I’ve talked to says that they’ll total it,” he said. “On a newer truck it’s like taking your computer and dropping it in the bathtub for five hours. It ain’t going to work after that.”

Rodriguez said the rescue drew a crowd of onlookers, and one person has already uploaded a video to YouTube.

“That was quite the spectacle,” he said. “It’s a good ending to the story, other than the guy’s truck got a little wet.”

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