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Controversy, alleged threats in case of little dog that survived days on icy Detroit River

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Posted at 7:37 PM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 23:39:18-05

ECORSE (WXYZ)  — "The only thing I failed to do is take my dog to get registered and give them a rabies shot," said Mark, a man who only wanted part of his first name used and claims the small dog rescued from the Detroit River belongs to him.

RELATED: 'He's doing pretty well.' Doctor says dog that survived days on Detroit River making improvements

Mark said he actually gave his cousin the dog on Valentine's Day because she has children and he and his girlfriend work too much to spend quality time with him.

He said the dog, that was part of a litter from two dogs they still own, is about a year and a half old and his name is "Fonz." Mark said he named him after a friend who was supposed to take him when he was just about 8 weeks old.

On Wednesday, Mark said his cousin called him and said the dog was stuck on the Detroit River. She told him the dog ran away from her family a day earlier and she saw on Facebook that a dog matching the description of Fonz was stuck on the ice.

Mark said he went to the John D. Dingell Park in Ecorse where people were starting to gather and the director of the River Rouge Animal Shelter was desperately trying to contact anyone she thought could rescue the dog, fearing he'd fall into the water and perish.

The ice where he was stranded is near the shore at Dingell Park, near Mud Island, which is U.S. territory, and Fighting Island, which is Canadian territory.

For four days the dog endured bitter cold temperatures and a coyote that appeared to see him as easy prey. But the coyote never attacked and even when a boat from the U.S. Coast Guard went past the dog and its wake sent the dog plunging into the water, he was able to climb back up onto the jagged ice where he continued to lay as if he was injured, and, at times, appeared to be dead.

RELATED: 'Miracle' puppy rescued from Detroit River after 4 days in blistering cold

As community outcries for someone to save the dog from the community mounted, a rescue team from Windsor's LaSalle Fire Service went out on a boat to look for the dog Friday, but they couldn't locate him.

Then late Saturday morning, Jude Mead Jr. and his father, who own J & J Marine in Windsor and are also contractors for BASF, went out on a BASF airboat in search of the little dog.

Jude and his dad found the pup and brought him to the shore of Dingell Park where the crowd applauded and many cried tears of joy and relief.

Now, the question authorities are trying to answer is who owns the dog, now named "Miracle" for having endured what most dogs or people could not have survived.

Miracle is being treated at Woodhaven Animal Hospital where they had to cut two pounds of hair off of his severely matted body. He has a number of health concerns that must also be treated before he can be released.

The veterinary hospital is now being inundated with hundreds of calls a day from people wanting to adopt Miracle and several people saying the dog belongs to them.

Some of those calls reportedly involve threats and people saying they are coming to get him.

Authorities are still working to verify ownership, and we're told Miracle's life could be jeopardized if he leaves the hospital too soon.

"I messed up in the long run by not getting my dog registered," said Mark, adding that his only proof that the dog is the one he gave away to his cousin are photos and videos of him because his dogs have never been to a veterinarian.

Mark said he has administered some vaccines to his dogs himself with shots that a service mails to the house. His dogs are not vaccinated for rabies. Rabies can only be administered by a licensed veterinarian.

"I don't think the rabies shot is necessary," said Kayla, Mark‘s girlfriend. "They're not around any wild animals or, you know, anything like that."

In Michigan, dogs 12 weeks or older must be currently vaccinated against rabies.