Boatman Craig Bowman and his crew found something unusual during the WATER Club's annual Colorado River clean-up Saturday, Aug. 11 - and it wasn't garbage.
Passenger Merlisa Porter spotted a dog, alone and still, but alive on the shore, about two miles upstream from Fruita.
"We stroked back up to get him," Bowman said.
The chestnut-colored dog with white markings on its face and feet, wearing a collar, but no tags, apparently had fallen from a ridge about 20 feet high. Shaking, and suffering from exposure, the male canine was apparently stuck in the muck of a rocky, muddy ledge.
Bowman placed a strap around the dog's mouth - although he was so mellow, and weak there was no resistance. Bowman checked for broken bones and found none. The dog couldn't walk and wouldn't eat, however.
So Bowman lifted the dog and placed him in an inflatable kayak (his raft was already full with three passengers, including his daughter, Sarah, and Adrianna Price, plus loads of trash collected along the river) and they towed the dog out. Bowman's been nursing him back to health ever since.
On Wednesday, he wagged his tail for the first time.
"He's a sweetheart," Bowman said. "I bet someone is missing him.
"I'm calling him 'Will,' because he's got the will to survive," Bowman said. "He's up walking, he's eating little bits, drinking, using the bathroom, none of which he did on the river. There's been a noticeable improvement."
With two dogs of his own, Bowman has no plans to keep "Will." Bowman said he'll take him to Animal Control where he hopes the owner has reported a missing dog. If not, the dog will be transferred to the Roice-Hurst Humane Society and will be available for adoption, Bowman said.
Animal Control Services, 971 Coffman Road, near Whitewater, can be reached at 242-4646.
Volunteers hauled 17 cubic yards of trash, and 18 tires from the Colorado River and its banks during the eighth annual Colorado River clean-up.
WATER is an acronym for Western Association for the Enjoyment of Rivers. Each year, members and other volunteers float the Colorado using various watercrafts to collect garbage floating in the river, and strewn along the shores. A land crew also collected litter along the Riverfront trail area.
About 70 volunteers launched nine rafts, four canoes, a dory, and several inflatable kayaks - all personal gear - to collect the trash that accumulates each year.
"Typically, we find plastic bottles, soda and beer cans, tires," organizer Bob Richardson said. "We also found a big TV this time."
Two crews covered two sections: From the Blue Heron boat launch to Fruita State Park, and the state park to the Loma boat launch.
"We had to eliminate two sections this year because of low water," making a portion of the river non-navigable, Richardson said.
The Bureau of Land Management secured a community enhancement grant to cover the dump fees required for disposal of the old tires that were found, Richardson said. Grand Junction provided Dumpsters for the land crews, and Fruita chipped in the use of a dump truck at the Fruita State Park take-out. The BLM provided a Dumpster at the other take-out in Loma.
Richardson has coordinated the annual clean-up for the past six years.
"I feel strongly about it - the aesthetics of it, and having a clean place to go boating and ride on the river trail," Richardson said.
Richardson noted two commercial trips were being launched at Blue Heron while they were on the river - "so there's a big economic advantage to keeping the river clean," he said.
Volunteer land crews made up of Humanists Doing Good led by Eric Niederkruger participated in the Colorado River clean-up for the second consecutive year.
Boaters met a 9 a.m. at Blue Heron, completed the clean-up by 4:30 p.m., then celebrated with a barbecue at Riverside Park.