A California firefighter who was bit by a German shepherd as he hoisted the dog to safety from the Los Angeles River on Friday is not holding it against the frightened dog.
Joe St. Georges, a 25-year veteran of the L.A. Fire Department, told Fox News on Saturday that he suffered severe hand and arm injuries during the heroic helicopter rescue but is recovering.
"I knew the dog was scared and tired. It's not too surprising that it was really upset with this big, loud noisy thing blowing all over it," St. Georges, 50, said. "And then some guy comes and jumps on its back — what a surprise the dog bit me."
The dog, nicknamed Vernon after the Southern California town where he was found, is in good health and is being quarantined while animal experts monitor him for rabies. Vernon "appears to be well-maintained and cared for," said Sgt. Charles Miller of the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority in Downey, Calif.
"He’s doing fine, he’s enjoying his celebrity status," said Justin Guzman, Animal Control Officer.
The dog does not have a name tag or computer chip. Vernon's owners have ten days to come forward and claim the German shepherd before the dog will be put up for adoption.
“We’re encouraging the owner to come forward,” Guzman told Fox News. "We just want Vernon to find a nice home."
If an owner shows up with proof of rabies vaccination, the dog could be monitored at home. If the owner doesn't show up, officials will try to find the dog a new home with one of the hundreds of families that have already come forward inquiring about adopting the dog.
At least 50 firefighters responded to reports that the dog was in the river on Friday afternoon. For an hour, firefighters stood at the top of the steep, concrete banks, throwing life vest and float rings, hoping the dog would grab on. Most of the time, the canine walked along a pipe or ledge in the center of the river, sometimes slipping. One firefighter got into the river and tried to catch him, but the dog took off. Soon the pipe was submerged.
When the helicopter hovered overhead, the dog scrambled to the side of the river and tried to climb the sides, only to slip each time.
St. Georges finally splashed down from the helicopter, wrestled with the frightened canine and lifted it to safety.
At a late afternoon news conference, helicopter pilot Scott Bowman said St. Georges took a muzzle with him but he wasn't able to get it on, "so he decided to go for the capture."
Miller said the dog had some scrapes and worn nails, but was otherwise fine.
"He was fearful when he first got here, understandably. He went through a big ordeal," Miller said.
Storms that started Monday have already dropped up to 8 inches of rain in Los Angeles County, the National Weather Service reported.
Watch Fox News Channel at about 6:20 p.m. ET Saturday for a live, on camera interview with Los Angeles Fire Department paramedic Joe St. Georges and Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter pilot Scott Bowman.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.