MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Call it Junior's lucky day.
On Thursday, the nearly 12-year-old Chinese Shar-Pei and Rottweiler mix got lost from his Miami Beach home, fell into Biscayne Bay, was rescued by a firefighter and later was reunited with his owner thanks to some social media magic.
The rescue and reunion were posted on the Miami Beach Fire Rescue's Twitter page.
The story began around 10 a.m. Thursday, when Jose Ruiz was out for a run and got a call from his dad alerting him that Junior, who normally sleeps under a backyard tree until noon, was gone. The Miami Herald reports Ruiz raced home, walked through the neighborhood looking for the dog and then drove around to search. Later he posted a photo of Junior on Instagram and printed some fliers.
By then, firefighter Emilio Sanchez had spotted the dog struggling to swim in the water behind a home about a block from its home. Sanchez jumped in and helped the 50-pound dark-haired dog to shore with an assist from other firefighters. The rescue was captured on cellphone video, which quickly hit social media and local television stations.
"He was very exhausted, just by the way he was breathing, and he was already barely able to keep his head up out of the water," Sanchez told WPLG. "So I pretty much got there in good timing. He was very eager to see me and he was happy I was there."
Firefighters dubbed Junior "Champ" before handing him over to police.
A woman who runs a pet-reuniting service in Los Angeles helped to reunite the dog and his owner after spotting news reports about Junior and seeing Ruiz's Instagram post. Helen Trimble contacted Ruiz and sent him the stories. He headed to City Hall, where he was reunited with Junior.
Ruiz tells the Herald he has no idea how Junior got into the bay.
"He doesn't like water. He doesn't even like to take a shower," Ruiz said, who gave the dog a shower Thursday night to rinse off the salt water. "I think he's had enough water for a while."
Junior spent the rest of Thursday evening on a pillow, too tired to move.
"He is just completely exhausted," Ruiz said. "I am just so happy to have him home."