When Deputy Michael Gregorek of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado responded to a recent vehicle fire, he had very little to go off of.
As he drove to the scene on Jan. 22, he wondered where the car was located, what the cause of the fire was and whether it was the result of criminal activity — all factors that could dramatically change his approach.
When he arrived, he saw the smoking SUV parked at the curb in a residential area — and he also saw a man throwing something at the back window.
Gregorek’s thoughts immediately ran to a recent call his team responded to involving someone throwing Molotov cocktails at cars, but the first sentence out of the man’s mouth changed everything.
“My dog’s in the car!” the man was crying.
“It flipped switch from ‘It’s obviously not a crime’ and ‘Now we have a life,'” Gregorek said in an interview posted by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
The deputy ran over to the vehicle, asking where the dog was and using his retractable baton to break out windows and a flashlight to try to see through the smoke.
After Gregorek broke the back window, the owner ran over and desperately dragged his dog up to the window. The dog, Hank, was visibly distressed and drooling.
The desperate owner tried valiantly to rescue his dog but was unable to lift him through the broken window. As soon as he stepped back, Gregorek stepped in.
As he grabbed the dog, he could tell it was running out of time: It was already tensing up and going stiff.
“I knew he was really in a bad way, and so my thought only at that point was he’s coming out with me, regardless of, you know, whatever else might be happening — smoke or fire or … Nothing else really mattered at that point other than getting, getting Hank out of the car,” Gregorek said.
After pulling the large dog out of the SUV, Gregorek carried him away from the fire and let him down in a patch of snow, where Hank shook himself and then wagged. The deputy let the firefighters know the dog was out, and then started coughing from the smoke he’d inhaled.
A kind neighbor spotted the officer hacking and brought him some water — and then said his wife would be home soon from running an errand and that she was a vet and could check the dog out.
Hank was contained in that neighbor’s backyard and was running around and acting normal. The wife looked the dog over and said he looked good.
Gregorek shared that he has a dog and is a dog lover himself and he would have responded the same way to any form of life trapped in that particular situation.
“As tacky as … it is to say, I’m a dog parent,” he said in the interview. “That’s … my only child is my dog, so I would’ve done you know the same thing whether it be baby human, dog, cat — a life is a life, and you kind of treat it as such in a situation like that.”
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