CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A Charleston pup is just fine after leaping from the South Side Bridge into the Kanawha River in fear last week.
Sandra Groce said her 7-month-old pooch is recovering at the East End home she shares with her husband, Larry, and their daughters, Virginia and Bonnie.
They got the coonhound-beagle mix from New Hope Animal Rescue in December and named her Betsy.
But after last week's terrifying ordeal, they've taken to calling her Betsy the Wonder Dog.
She said Betsy is great with their kids, who adore her, but still skittish around other people.
Groce said she and Betsy were walking on Virginia Street and headed toward the South Side Bridge last Thursday. They were going to run on the Carriage Trail on the south side of the river.
The dog normally wears a harness on such outings but had recently chewed through it and this day was wearing only a collar.
As they approached the bridge, something spooked the dog. She slipped out of her collar and darted up the bridge. Groce said she chased Betsy as fast as she could.
"I was running desperately after her," she said.
Charleston Police Officer Courtney Johnson was driving the prisoner transport van that morning and saw Groce running after the dog.
He said he turned on the van's emergency lights, drove onto the bridge and stopped near the middle, where the dog also had paused.
Motorists coming from the south end of the bridge were braking as the pup darted across the lanes.
Johnson said he and another driver tried to calm the dog, but the scared pup acted impulsively.
"The dog took a sharp left and jumped over the rail," Johnson said. "I said 'Aww man.' Everybody just stopped and looked at each other like we've never seen anything like that before."
The little tan-and-white dog plunged about 100 feet from the deck into the river.
As Groce made it to that spot on the bridge, the officer told her the dog had jumped. He said she looked "just devastated."
Johnson didn't know if the dog had survived but told Groce they should check the bank on the north side because of the river currents.