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Lafayette Teens Rescue Drowning Prairie Dog From Swimming Pool

LAFAYETTE, Colo. (CBS4) -- No matter what else they accomplish during their season, two members of the Flatiron Swimming team can say they've performed chest compressions and successfully revived a prairie dog found at the bottom of a pool.

Prairie Dog CPR 2.1 close-up (CREDIT Marineth Huffaker)
(credit: Marineth Huffaker)

The high schoolers were doing warm-up laps at the YMCA of Northern Colorado in Lafayette Wednesday afternoon when they spotted the animal.

The team's coach, Wolfgang Dittrich, advised the pair not to mess with the doomed -- or already deceased -- animal. But Teagan Mayer and Grace Keogh told their coach, "This thing is not going to die on our watch," Dittrich recounted.

Mayer retrieved the creature from the depths and brought it to the poolside deck. There, Keogh and Mayer took turns doing chest compressions on the young prairie dog. Within seconds, Dittrich reported, water began draining from the animal's body.

"It was like, 'oh my God, it's working,'" Dittrich said.

When it started shaking, Keogh and Mayer turned it over. The prairie dog coughed and scurried away.

Prairie Dog CPR 2 (CREDIT Marineth Huffaker)
(credit: Marineth Huffaker)

"Those two kids took charge and basically made it happen," Dittrich added, marveling at the kids' compassion. "There's not enough of that in the world right now."

Not everyone was excited at the news.

The state has no record of anyone every performing CPR on a prairie dog, said Jason Clay, spokesperson for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife. There's good reason for that -- disease. Plague, specifically.

"We would never advise for the public to step in and provide CPR to a prairie dog, no matter what the case," Clay told CBS4. "Do not touch or feed wild animals and do not allow your pets to interact with them."

Transmission of the disease to humans, whether directly from an infected prairie dog or indirectly via a pet that has come in contact with an infected prairie dog or burrow, is uncommon, according to Clay. But it is a serious illness. Symptoms include fever, swollen and tender lymph nodes, chills, and extreme exhaustion. It can be treated with antibiotics.

But Dittrich, a witness to the revival, has no regrets.

"I'm not the one to tell them 'let it die.' No way, no way."

Prairie Dog CPR 3 (CREDIT Marineth Huffaker)
(credit: Marineth Huffaker)

Chris Coker, the CEO of the YMCA of Northern Colorado, has no regrets, either.

"It's what you want from kids," he said. "A kid should be thinking 'Here's something in distress, I should help it.' I mean, that's the exact life lesson you want them to have — to go help where they see that help is needed."

Tossing the animal to the side and continuing with practice would have been "a little too cavalier," he added.

To be clear, there was no mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, Coker confirmed.

Related information from the Tri-County Health Department:



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