An Unlikely Hero in Puerto Rico Recovery Efforts

Sometimes heroes have four legs.

While conducting a security assessment of a closed hospital in Humacao, Puerto Rico, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee James Casey noticed something unusual: A small dog that would prove to be an extraordinary hero.

A small dog wearing a sweater sits on the seat of a small scooter.

“The dog was wearing a sweater, and we were curious as to why a dog would be wearing a sweater alone in this area,” Casey recalled. “The dog kept going up and down the hill.”

Casey, a USFWS officer from Brazoria, Texas, has been in Puerto Rico helping with recovery efforts since September 19 -- along with 30 Interior Department responders on a mission for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The dog (named Agua) kept running up and down the hill. Thinking this was unusual, Casey and the rest of the team followed the dog. When they reached the bottom of the hill, they discovered a woman, the dog's owner, who had been trapped under a scooter for over an hour. While trying to get to the hospital, the woman had lost control of her scooter, and it rolled on top of her. 

Four emergency workers lift a woman off the street and on to a stretcher next to an ambulance.

Upon finding her, the crew radioed fellow USFWS officer Dan Huckle, who coordinated an emergency response between the team and hospital doctors. Another team member commandeered an ambulance and rushed her to the emergency department for medical treatment.

“This area was abandoned, littered with debris, and if it wasn't for this little dog, it would have been likely she would not have been found and possibly perished as she has prior medical issues,” said Casey. “We all voted ‘Agua’ the dog the hero of our mission for saving her owner's life.”

Agua was reunited with her owner later than evening after the woman received medical treatment.

Casey is one of 224 Department of the Interior Employees serving under the FEMA emergency response. In addition to FEMA support, Interior has 325 employees deployed to or stationed on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands responding to the disaster caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Casey and Quick Response Team 2 will demobilize and return home this month.


Photos by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.