St. Charles couple grateful their dog survives Chicago River plunge
Owners relieved about finding beloved pet
Mark Lewis of Geneva poses with Tank, his Pomeranian, who fell off the family boat Sunday night in the Chicago River. His wife, Linn, holds their other dog, Cali, in the background.
John Starks | Staff Photographer
When Mark and Linn Lewis of St. Charles first got their Pomeranian puppy, he was so small he could fit in the palm of your hand.
"We wanted to give him a big strong name, kind of a play on his size," Linn Lewis said of Tank, who is now 5. "He's Tank, the strong, hearty dog — and he's really become that."
Tank was reunited with his owners early Tuesday morning after a 30-hour odyssey in which he fell off the Lewis' boat on the Chicago River on Sunday night, was saved by his life vest, and was eventually picked up by a Chicago resident who saw the story on TV.
Mark Lewis, who is a Geneva doctor, said Tank is normally tethered to the boat, but he had incorrectly attached the tether. The couple noticed the dog was missing at about 7 p.m., when they were on the river's North Branch near Goose Island and Halsted and Division streets. They were not going fast; the river is a no-wake area.
"I was devastated knowing I'd made a mistake and allowed Tank to go overboard, unnoticed," Mark said.
They searched up and down the river with a spotlight until about 2:30 a.m. Monday before calling it quits. They did not find Tank or his little yellow life vest.
Linn Lewis called a friend, who began emailing TV stations and newspapers to spread the word.
After a restless night of tears — "We cried like we had lost a child," Linn said — Mark went back into the city Monday to resume the search for Tank in alleys and parks in the Ravenswood Gardens and Albany Park area.
Mark was convinced Tank had swum ashore and that a person was probably taking care of him.
A woman who lives on Lawrence Avenue with the river as her backyard called Mark and said she'd seen a dog resembling Tank briefly playing with her dog, but it ran away when she tried to check his tag.
That wouldn't have mattered, though, because Mark took the tags off to accommodate the life vest.
While searching alleys Monday night, Mark got a call from a woman named Katherine Santos, who saw Tank's picture on the news and had taken him in Monday morning after he was playing with her dogs at a park.
"I was literally three blocks away when she called," Mark said. "She would not accept money (a $500 reward) for reuniting our family."
Mark texted Linn, saying Tank was "surprisingly clean."
"It was like the weight of the world being lifted off my shoulders. It was extreme relief, utterly joy and relief," said Linn, who thanked all those who helped in the search for Tank and noted reassurance from her 17-year-old daughter also helped through the ordeal.
On Tuesday, the phone at Mark's practice was ringing from patients and reporters as Tank and 8-month-old Cali, a Yorkie mix, overheard the story being told again and again.
Linn said they didn't mind sharing the good news and said they would ease restrictions and probably let Tank indulge in some treats well-wishers had provided.
"We're happy to show that there are happy endings to what could have been a potential tragedy," she said. "We are so grateful. If it hadn't been for the press, all the media attention, I don't know if we would have been able to find him. We could have easily lost him."
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