A pet owner jumped into a river to save his dog from drowning, only to die while his pet survived.
The Beijing News reported that the 59-year-old victim, surnamed Yan, had been driving along the Tiananmen bridge moat in a pedicab with two toy poodles in the back seat, and had parked his vehicle to walk his dogs when the accident occurred. One of the puppies slipped through a gap in the bridge’s fence and fell into the two metre deep moat. The puppy began helplessly flopping in the water, and Yan quickly stripped his clothes, tied his belt to the bridge’s fence and jumped in.
Witnesses report that Yan held onto the belt with one arm and reached his free hand out towards the puppy, which was about one metre away. Yan was about to grab the puppy when his belt suddenly broke, sending him falling into the river. According to witness statements, Yan did not seem to be able to swim.
Nine firefighters with life jackets and buoys rushed to the scene afterwards and tied themselves to the bridge fence with rescue ropes. They jumped in the water and pulled both Yan’s sinking body and the puppy ashore.
“By the time we arrived, the victim had already been submerged in the water,” firefighter captain Fan Haohao told The Beijing News. “All we could see from the surface were tiny air bubbles… [When we brought him ashore], his neck was purple, his belly had swollen up and he already wasn’t breathing.”
Firefighters attempted to resuscitate Yan, but could not save his life. Yan’s relatives arrived at the scene afterwards, and fell to the ground crying in distress after they saw the broken belt and his body wrapped in a white cloth. The man’s two toy poodles, including the one that had fallen into the water and been rescued, also reportedly stared at their owner’s body in silence.
Relatives told reporters that Yan had loved dogs more than anything. He had never married and lived a quiet life in a low-cost apartment in Beijing’s Songjiazhuang. He had no children, and his only companions were his two toy poodles, which were named “Zaier” and “Nini”. Of the two, Yan reportedly preferred Nini, the dog that had fallen into the river, and the poodle never failed to bring a smile to his face.
“Zaier was usually honest and obedient,” Yan’s sister told reporters. “Nini was especially mischievous, but my brother never beat or scolded her.”
Yan’s sister added that the dogs brought her brother great happiness, and Yan would often take them for rides on his pedicab. She tearfully told reporters that she couldn’t help but blame Nini for the accident.
“My brother spoiled Nini too much,” she said.
Chinese online commentators responded sadly to the news of Yan’s death. Several remarked that Yan may not have needed to jump in the river to save his pet, since many dogs, including poodles, are born with strong instincts and can often learn to swim after they are submerged in water.
“Rest in peace,” one Weibo user wrote. “Your dog will always remember you.”