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SRP worker dubbed 'Dog Whisperer' saves dogs from Phoenix canal system

Zanjero Cecena SRP dog rescue
Posted at 10:20 AM, Apr 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-14 13:35:00-04

LAVEEN, AZ — An SRP worker is being hailed a hero after jumping into action to save two dogs that were stuck in a Valley canal.

"The dogs were devoted to each other. The white dog wasn’t gonna leave until his buddy was ok. It felt good to help them. Every life is important. When someone or something needs help, you help," said SRP Zanjero aka "ZanHero" Ruben Cecena.

Last Thursday, Zanjero was approaching a lateral grate near 27th Avenue and Elliot Road in Laveen to clear debris from the grate to allow water flow. When he got there he spotted two Labradors stuck and in need of help as a heavy flow of water rushed around the animals.

The 62-year-old Zanjero quickly grabbed his gancho, a type of hook used to pull out trash or items causing blockage in a canal, and hooked one of the dogs by its collar and pulled the 70lb animal to safety.

He tried the same method with the second dog but its collar slipped off the dog's neck. That's when he ran to his truck and grabbed about five wooden boards and laid them across the grate in hopes the dog would climb out.

Unfortunately, the dog was too exhausted from struggling in the water, so Zanjero used the flat part of his gancho to give the animal a push from behind and get it to safety.

SRP officials say once the first dog saw his friend was saved, both animals scurried off toward a nearby farm field and were not seen again.

Zanjero said both dogs were wearing collars and he assumes their owners live in the area.

He says crews routinely come across animals as they deliver water throughout the Valley.

They remind owners to always keep an eye on their pets around canal and irrigation facilities.

SRP reminds those who walk, jog or bike along the canals to be safe. Canals can be very dangerous.

Here are some safety reminders:

  • Do not swim in canals.
  • Keep a safe distance from the edges.
  • Canal sides are extremely slick, making it difficult to get out.
  • Swimming, canoeing, kayaking, water skiing and tubing are not allowed.
  • Make sure to teach children about canal safety.
  • Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the canal banks (authorization from SRP is required).
  • Stay away from automated equipment at water delivery gates.
  • Never jump in to rescue pets or objects such as toys. Call 911 for help.
  • Secure permission from SRP before using canal banks for any kind of event. Call (602) 236-3126 for permit information.