One day early last fall, Kevin Steidly was in the Rifle City Market when a boy entered the store in a panic, yelling that there was a dog stuck in nearby Rifle Creek.
Steidly pulled out his phone and called the Rifle Police Department's animal control, then grabbed a blanket off the shelf and rushed outside. He scrambled down a 10-foot embankment into the creek, where 12-year-old Tootsie, a blue heeler/Rottweiler mix owned by Linda Sanchez, 52, of Rifle, was struggling to breathe.
"The dog's head kept dropping down into the water," said Steidly, recalling the incident, "even though the water was only up to my knees."
By the time Steidly had pulled Tootsie out of the water and wrapped her in a blanket, former Animal Control Officer Brittany Coley was on the scene, and the pair hustled Tootsie into Coley's van, then to a veterinarian in Silt.
Sadly, Tootsie died on the way to the vet's office that day. Sanchez said drinking from the creek was a daily routine for her dog , but she was already weak, and in the last stages of cancer.
Despite that outcome, though, Steidly was recognized for his efforts with a Citizen Recognition Award from Rifle Police Chief John Dyer, presented at the Jan. 16 City Council meeting.
Coley nominated Steidly for the new award, which Dyer created to recognize people for good deeds performed in the community.
"I think it's important to recognize people when they are doing things well," said Dyer, who started as police chief last fall. "It's to let the community know what we value. In any police department it's important that we have a community partnership."
The award criteria reads: "The nominee must have performed an outstanding act, achievement or exceptional service to the community of Rifle which is relative to the ideals of law enforcement and overall public safety."
Steidly, 33, has a soft spot for animals: He works as the dog trainer at the Rifle Animal Shelter. On the morning he rescued the dog, he said, he could have simply called it in to animal control and left the scene, but he chose to stay.
"I'm grateful that the young man was there to help with the situation," said Sanchez, who emerged from her house that morning to find Steidly and Coley carrying Tootsie up from the creek.
"I don't know what I would have done if I would have seen her in the creek myself."