Two young swimmers saved a life Wednesday afternoon after a prairie dog was found unresponsive at the bottom of a Lafayette pool.
Teagan Mayer and Grace Keogh, both teenage members of Flatiron Swimming, saved the life of the imperiled prairie dog during their team’s practice at the Arapahoe YMCA by rescuing it from the bottom of a pool and performing CPR.
“(They said), this thing is not going to die on our watch,” said Wolfgang Dittrich, head coach at Flatiron Swimming.
Dittrich said that the team was doing warm-ups when the prairie dog was spotted. Mayer then dove in to grab it, he said, and “threw it out on the deck.”
Then, according to Dittrich, Mayer and Keogh took turns performing chest compressions on the small animal. After just seconds, water began coming out of its nose and mouth and it started shaking, so the two turned the animal over, causing it to cough and then scurry away.
“It was like, ‘oh my God, it’s working,’” Dittrich said.
Dittrich said that even though he said to leave it alone and that the animal was probably dead, the two swimmers wanted to make sure it would live to see another day.
“It must have been a baby,” Dittrich said. “It was not much bigger than a rat, if at all.”
Though the animal may have been young and in distress, Jason Clay, a spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s northeast region, said that the agency would never recommend performing CPR on a prairie dog.
“The best thing you can do would be to call your local animal control. Do not touch or feed wild animals and do not allow your pets to interact with them,” he said.
Clay added that, while it is an uncommon occurrence and there have not been any reported cases, according to the Tri-County Health Department, prairie dogs do have the ability to transmit plague to humans. And according to Marshall Lipps, environmental health specialist with Boulder County Public Health, a main worry is fleas that can jump over from their fur.
Lipps said to remain vigilant for the tiny pests after coming in contact with a prairie dog.
“Dogs that are exposed to plague do not usually get sick,” Clay said, “but can transport fleas and expose people.”
Chris Coker, CEO of YMCA of Boulder Valley, said that, even though there are issues when dealing with prairie dogs, he admires the “kind soul” of the two swimmers.
“That’s exactly what you want to teach the kids, as parents, at the Y, it’s everything,” he said. “I mean that’s the exact life lesson you want them to have — to go help where they see that help is needed.”
Dittrich said “it’s nice to see how much they cared,” and it’s good to know they were ready to jump into action.
“Sometimes I think this generation might get a bad rap,” he said. “… but they also do really grateful and empowering things.”