It was a typical August Friday “dog day” afternoon for Sandy and Dennis Stern, longtime residents of Yawkey Lake in Hazelhurst, as they enjoyed a warm day on their deck.
Joining them on that Friday was Chandler, the 8-year-old yellow Lab who was lazily napping on the deck like she likes to do.
That was until Sandy finally realized that Chandler was no longer napping. Chandler had been nervously and anxiously running back and forth from the deck to the lake and back again when Sandy realized
that something was not quite right.
“Chandler is a very receptive dog who knows people very well. She’s the friendliest of friendly,” Keith Stern, Sandy and Dennis’s son, said.
Keith is Chandler’s master, but the dog was spending the day with Keith’s parents, “Grandma and Grandpa.”
“She spends a lot of time with us,” Sandy said.
It was Chandler’s heightened receptors that finally got Sandy’s attention. Chandler’s anxious movements and back and forth from the water’s edge to the deck and back again was enough to convince Sandy to follow her from the deck and down to the water’s edge where she saw a canoe capsized and several people struggling in the water.
“Chandler was acting antsy and frantic because she could hear the people yelling in the water,” Sandy said.
Calling to her husband, Dennis, he too came down to the lake to survey the situation.
Realizing quickly that the people in the water needed help, Dennis jumped into the family pontoon boat and made his way toward the canoe.
What he found was the mother and a child clinging to the capsized canoe and the father of the family on his way back from shore to the canoe; he had already made it to shore with two of their young children and was on his way back to the canoe to help his wife and other child.
Dennis helped the mother and child onto the pontoon boat and then assisted the father in getting the canoe back to shore.
“There weren’t a lot of words exchanged because I think the family was a bit traumatized,” Sandy said.
When everyone was on shore, it was decided that nobody needed emergency care, thank yous were given and after the family had a chance to dry off a bit and get their wits about them they were gone.
“We’ve lived on the lake for 22 years. It’s a small, quiet lake and we don’t see a lot of activity,” Sandy said.
She also said that they didn’t know the family and figured they were visiting and staying at a cottage for the weekend.
But had it not been for Chandler and her Lassie-like behavior, the Sterns would never have known that the family had capsized their canoe and needed help.
Raymond T. Rivard may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.