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Dog Wearing Life Vest Dies after Kayak Flips in American River

SACRAMENTO -- High water flows along the American River have led to yet another death, but this time it was a dog.

“Been down here at the river since the early 60s,” said Thomas King. “Parents used to bring us here in the family station wagon. This is where we learned how to swim.”

King is an experienced kayaker and he said even he won’t go into the American River on a high flow day.

“The dynamics are really weird when the flows get high like this. Pushes things down, pushes things under, holds things there,” he explained.

Wednesday morning, the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District says it had to rescue a kayaker who flipped, throwing him and his dog into the water.

Both were wearing life jackets and firefighters were able to get the man out safely.

However, after being in the cold water for almost 20 minutes, the man’s dog didn’t make it, according to firefighters.

“I think he’s emotionally distraught over the loss of his dog and the experience of being in the water,” said Jason Vestal with Metro Fire.

“If your dog does go in, don’t go after it,” King said. “We know we love our animals but don’t lose your life over it.”

King told FOX40 he often kayaks with his three dogs. While he does have life jackets for them, he admitted sometimes he doesn’t use them.

“When there’s a lot of branches like this I don’t put the life vest on them because I find that it can get caught up on sticks and things like that, and then they can’t work as good,” he said.

King said when flows are as fast as they were Wednesday, it’s best to keep dogs and people out of the water.

Metro Fire said it has received multiple assistance calls on the American River over the past couple of days as triple-digit heat has many flocking to the cool waters. The agency stresses conditions are not always safe.

“The chance of getting that cold exposure is very high, even though it’s hot out,” Vestal said.

“Two days in a row we’ve had helicopters and fire trucks at Gristmill,” King said. “We don’t advise going in and playing around with it, you know?”

Firefighters don’t want people exceeding their capabilities while out on the water. You should wear life vests even if you’re only going in knee-high waters.

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