PROVO -- The family dog apparently played the role of Lassie the hero after a 6-year-old in the family of Geneva Steel owner Joe Cannon and his wife, Jan, fell into the Provo River Friday afternoon.
The Cannons live near the river in north Provo. Claire Cannon, who has Down syndrome, fell in the river around 5 p.m., and was swept downstream, said Provo firefighter/paramedic Jeff Martin.She was missing for nearly an hour as family, police and neighbors frantically searched the banks for her.
When Claire was found, she was wet and tucked up underneath some thick brush with Lucy, the family Labrador, beside her. People floating on the river noticed the dog barking and trying to pull the child out of the brush. The river runners flagged down the rescuers.
"We thought she was in the house," said Jan Cannon. "She's never gone by the river before, but she's been taking swimming lessons so maybe she felt a little more comfortable going there."
The Cannons began sending family members up and down the riverbanks as soon as they discovered Claire missing. The river has been running higher than usual for the past week, although Jan Cannon said the flow had dropped considerably just recently. "That's a blessing," she said.
"She was very lucky," Martin said. "The brush was so thick we would never have found her. I tell you one thing. It's not very often you have something like this and you can pull a little girl out all happy and safe."
Claire was found about 100 feet from where she probably went in the river, said her mother.
Claire and Lucy have been pals since the dog came to the family three years ago, Jan Cannon said. "Claire can be rough and Lucy tolerates it. Today, I think she proved she's her guardian angel. I guess the dog stayed with her the whole time and even tried to pull her out."
The Cannons have had legal custody of Claire since she was 16 months old.