When Brady Oliveira took his puppy to Maple Grove Dog Park on Tuesday, he decided to swap the rubber boots he’s been sporting lately for a pair of runners.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back didn’t know he’d be doing a water rescue during the outing.
“It’s crazy how things work,” Oliveira said.
“My shoes did get really, really muddy, but it’s all good.”
Oliveira, 22, was walking through the park with Nellie, a five-month-old dog he rescued in Nelson House, Man., earlier this year, when he saw a woman calling for her dog as she headed toward the steep drop to the riverbank.
When he didn’t see her come back up, he decided to venture over to see what was going on.
“I go over there and next thing you know, she is in just such panic,” he said.
Oliveira watched in shock as the woman desperately tried to coax her dog out of the river. It had fallen in.
“I remember her saying, like, ‘Oh my God, he’s not going to come back. I’m going to lose my dog,'” he said.
It didn’t take him long to figure out what to do.
“Me being such a big dog lover, I’m like, ‘I need to get this dog out of the water,'” he said.
“‘Whether I have to go in and swim and get the dog out, I have to get the dog out.'”
The woman slipped and grabbed a nearby tree branch to steady herself as he jumped down to help. He couldn’t tell how deep the water was, but it didn’t look like they would be able to walk in or out.
As more time passed, it got harder for them to try to grab the dog — and harder for the dog to keep trying to swim back, he said.
“There’s only so much that he could swim before he gets tired, right?” Oliveira said. “You could tell [by the look] on her dog’s face, he was panicking extremely. It was just a scary moment.”
Finally, the dog got close enough that the woman was able to grab it, and Oliveira was able to get them both out of the water.
“It was just a messy situation, literally. She was wet, the dog was wet, everyone was full of mud,” he said.
“I’m just so, so, so happy that I was there at that time and that I saw her going towards the river.”
Football ‘doesn’t last forever’
Oliveira’s dog, Nellie, stayed by his side the whole time.
“She is truly amazing. She is such a smart girl,” he said. “I also think maybe that’s because she is a rescue.… They’re extremely, extremely loyal to you.”
Oliveira said once the woman recognized him, it was for the football player’s work with K9 Advocates Manitoba, a non-profit organization that rescues stray dogs from northern Manitoba communities with dog overpopulation problems.
The volunteer role is an important part of his life, he said.
“I definitely do not want to be defined by the game of football, because you never know when the game of football is going to be done. It doesn’t last forever,” he said.
“That’s why I do so much community work, because I’m super passionate about giving back and helping others.”
Oliveira hopes he can help draw attention to the non-profit, which finds dogs in need of help in northern Manitoba, where veterinary services are lacking, gets them vaccinated and brings them to shelters across the country — and relies on donations to do it all.
And if he sees the woman and her dog again, Oliveira said he hopes it’s under better conditions.
“I’m sure I definitely will see her around again at Maple Grove,” he said. “We can have another laugh about this whole crazy situation that went down.”