Dog that saved boy has his day Canine hero honored for pulling 8-year-old from river after kayak accident Evan Semon © News Ryan Rambo, 8, and Chelsea Bennett, 13, play with her yellow Labrador retriever Zion, 2, along the Roaring Fork River in Glenwood Springs on Tuesday. Ryan, whose family fled New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, fell into the 53-degree water while kayaking Monday and fought to stay afloat in his life jacket for half a mile until Zion heard his cries for help. The dog, who was retrieving sticks from the river, dragged Ryan to safety. By Ellen Miller, Special to the News May 17, 2006 GLENWOOD SPRINGS - Ryan Rambo, 8, was thrown into the churning, frigid waters of the Roaring Fork River when his inflatable kayak hit a submerged tree. He struggled to hang onto the overturned boat but found it too slippery. The current swept him away. His life jacket kept riding up and he pulled frantically to keep inside it. "Some waves stuck me underwater and it was kinda scary," Ryan said. "Some parts were so cold I could hardly breathe." As the struggling child came bobbing downstream, he caught the attention of a yellow Labrador retriever named Zion, who by good fortune was playing along the river bank with his owner. Ryan picked up the story, explaining how Zion earned the status of "hero dog" Sunday. "Then I saw Zion. I started, like, to swim towards him, and he swam towards me, and I grabbed on to his neck and his collar and he pulled me in," Ryan said. "I was so cold it was hard to breathe and hang on. It was kind of freaky." Zion, a powerful 2-year-old male, got a bag of dog biscuits and a new chew toy Tuesday, two days after he swam to shore with a shivering Ryan hanging on for dear life. Ryan was in the kayak with family friend Kevin Doran, 47, when the trouble began just above Cemetery Rapid. After snagging on the submerged tree, the craft hit a boulder, trapping Doran briefly as the current of the runoff swollen river rapidly built behind them. Ryan was pitched into the 53-degree water. Doran managed to escape the river. He climbed up to Colorado 82 above the river and flagged down a car to call for help. Garfield County deputy sheriffs, search- and-rescue crews and Glenwood Springs police fanned out along the Roaring Fork, looking for the boy. At the takeout spot, Ryan's mother, Deana Rambo, said she was frantic. "I saw the raft go by upside down. I heard sirens and then the police came and said they were looking for a little boy in the river," she said. "I lost it." Chelsea Bennett, a 13-year-old middle school student, said she walks Zion down the river trail near her family's home almost daily, tossing sticks into the water for the dog to retrieve. Zion had lost sight of the last toss and was in the water searching for the stick when Ryan appeared. Zion weighs 80 pounds; Ryan, at 3-foot-11, weighs 50. The rescue was on. "It was like any ordinary day. I played fetch with him, and then he couldn't find the stick and we saw the little boy floating in the river," Chelsea said. "He was screaming for help, but he was so cold it wasn't very loud. Zion swam out to him." "I saw the little boy grab onto Zion, and I called him and he brought him in," Chelsea continued. "I put my cover (a shawl) on him and put sand all over him because the sand was hot. "Otherwise, it was an ordinary day with Zion." Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario estimated that Ryan Rambo was in the water about 20 minutes and floated about half a mile before the rescue. The drowning scare was the latest in a series of challenges for the Rambo family. Deana Rambo moved Ryan and his 11-year-old sister Tyler from her native New Orleans to Glenwood Springs a week after Hurricane Katrina. "We love it here, and we've all made friends," she said. "We came here because the kids' dad's brother lives here." The children's father died in a motorcycle accident four years ago. "We've all been through a lot," Deana Rambo said. From the time Deana learned from police that her son was missing, it took an hour before she was reunited with him. He, Chelsea and Zion had walked down the river looking for Doran and eventually encountered police. Ryan said he "kind of freaked because I thought they'd arrest me." Late Tuesday afternoon, the Bennett and Rambo families met at the Bennetts' house and took Zion for a walk along the Roaring Fork. Ryan threw a new toy into the water for Zion to retrieve. Chelsea, her sister, Brooke, 17, who bought the dog nearly two years ago in Carbondale, and their parents, Robin and Steve, all said they are proud of Zion. "He's playful because he's a puppy, but I'm not surprised he had it in him," Chelsea said. "I think Zion knew what he had to do, and I'm just glad my dog was there."