Two pet terriers out for a rainy walk with their owners Sunday were swept into an overflowing culvert, as Tropical Storm Debby lashed St. Petersburg.
Robert Montgomery and Cory Crosby said Sunday that they were walking their dogs on leashes in a grassy area near Tropicana Park, when one of the dogs slipped and fell into a culvert that runs under I-175 and into Booker Creek in Roser Park.
"The water is normally not that high," Montgomery said. "The water usually looks like it is up to your knees."
Montgomery said that he jumped in to save the 4-year-old Staffordshire Terrier, Tank, who weighs more than 100 pounds. Montgomery grabbed on to Tank as the chest-high rushing waters roared around him.
As he tried to save Tank, 6-year-old Layla – their Rednose Pitbull Terrier – became frantic and jumped into the water, too, apparently to save both of them.
"She's very motherly. She's very smart. She just jumped off the edge to see what she could do," Crosby said.
The two dogs had never tried to jump into the culvert before, even though they visit the area daily.
Everything happened so fast that the men barely had time to think. At that point, Montgomery tried to reach for Layla, too. But he slipped and lost his balance.
The current was so strong that it started to pull Montgomery and both dogs under, sweeping them toward a storm drain that flows under a bridge near I-175.
"I saw them being pulled under and into the canal" that flows into Booker Creek, Montgomery said. Montgomery felt like he could not fight the current either.
Montgomery let go of the dogs to save himself. He watched them slip under the rushing waters, which pulled the dogs toward the large storm drain. He did not see them again.
Montgomery hoisted himself back up to dry land. The two men jumped into their van to cross I-175 and try to follow the waterway.
Sunday afternoon, they walked along the culvert and through Roser Park, where a pickup truck earlier had veered off the road and sunk into the rushing creek. No one was injured in that mishap. Montgomery stopped a police cruiser, asking the officer to keep an eye out for their dogs.
The men followed the creek to the point where it meets Tampa Bay. Booker Creek flows east through the park, under 4th Street and out to Tampa Bay, by USF St. Petersburg.
The men hoped to spot any sign of the dogs, both of whom are microchipped and have black collars with tags. They want them home, even if it is to bury them. "These are very well-behaved, smart dogs," Montgomery said.
The two men are asking that if anyone finds the dogs to contact them at 727-204-7061.
"I think it's a pretty slim chance they're alive. Their best chance seems to be on the other side of I-175" from Tropicana Field, just northwest of Roser Park, near baseball fields.
Montgomery said that he and his partner were given Layla by a friend, when the dog was a puppy. The men got Tank when he was just seven weeks old through an ad on Craigslist.
"It made sense for Layla to try to save Tank. They had always been together," Montgomery said.