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20 Years After the Septuplet’s Birth

On November 17th, 1997, something unique happened in Des Moines Iowa, which had never been recorded in human history. A set of Sextuplets (seven siblings) was successfully delivered to the McCaugheys. Kenni and Bobbi McCaughey’s story was quickly picked up by international media as everyone wanted to know the unique challenges and experiences that sextuplets would bring to a ‘normal’ American household. This slideshow follows this unique story from the time of birth, until adulthood.

The first born – happy couple (Kenni and Bobbi McCaughey)

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Kenni and Bobbi McCaughey had their first born daughter, Mikalya, born in 1996. The birth was a miracle in itself since Bobbi suffered from pituitary gland issues which made it almost impossible to successfully conceive. Looking to expand their family, they underwent fertility treatments to facilitate the birth of another child.

Surprising News

Before their first ultrasound, the McCaugheys were excited to learn that the fertility treatments had worked and that their family would soon be expanding. But by just how much was something they didn’t realize until this moment. The sound of so many heartbeats in the silence of the hospital room—“it was a lot to take in,” remembered the McCaugheys. Before they knew it their whole life would be changed forever.

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The Pregnancy

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To their surprise, they learnt that not only were the fertility treatments successful, Bobbi now had seven growing embryos in her womb. Despite the fact that no other set of sextuplets had ever been successfully delivered, they refused to undergo selective termination and decided to see the pregnancy to full term. With the story being picked up by multiple news outlets, this led to some criticism of ‘selfishness’ on their part by putting all embryos in danger.

The Birth

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On the 19th of November, the McCaughey’s doctor decided to deliver the children via cesarean section – six months early – to optimize their chances of survival. All seven children were successfully delivered, albeit underweight at the time. The couple now had seven new additions to their family, four boys (Kenny Robert, Nathan Roy, Brandon James, and Joel Stephen) and three girls (Alexis may, Natalie Sue, and Kelsey Ann)

It Takes a Village

As media attention increased around the miraculous birth of the first surviving septuplets in history—seven babies at the same time—even the hospital staff enjoyed a moment of fame. Before a bank of reporters and microphones, they gave a collective cheer to celebrate. Someone reportedly quipped that, while “it takes a village to raise a child,” ushering septuplets into the world takes a small city!

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The Septuplets

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With a media circus surrounding them, Bobbi and Kenni finally took their new children home and started planning on how to raise their unique family.

5. Media Coverage

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The media couldn’t get enough of the McCaughey sextuplets. Their home was constantly surrounded by local, national and international media outlets seeking to get a glimpse of the family. They even made the cover of Time magazine and Newsweek.

Balloons and Bodyguards

Though Bobbi and Kenni report that they gave relatively few interviews, they also remember that it was not uncommon for paparazzi and other visitors to slip into their backyard, hoping to get a glimpse of the septuplets. So great was the media attention that the local police, in order to ensure the family’s peace and quiet, stood guard outside the McCaughey home. With balloons.

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6. Celebrity Status

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Their new found celebrity also got them an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show on the sextuplets’ first birthday. The parents got a call from President Clinton, and later on, a visit from President Bush.

Mommy time

With eight children to attend to, the McCaughey parents were more than outnumbered! In her weekly journal, Mom Bobbi described trying moments when it seemed like there was “always at least one child crying.” She recalled feeling both “terror and joy,” but never regretted the decision to keep all seven babies rather than choosing “selective reduction.” “They’re my children, and I just wanted them,” she told People magazine.

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7. The Kindness of Strangers (and friends)

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While everybody was mesmerized by their story, they also recognized the financial challenges of raising eight young children. The McCaughey’s were showered with gifts which ranged from a 5,000 sq ft home, a lifetime supply of diapers and a new family van.

The Family Car

It was easy to spot the McCaughey family van because it came adorned with a bow and detailed with the names of each child and their parents. But did it come with carseats? The McCaugheys realized it was time to buckle up for a lifetime of adventures. Traveling with eight children was just one of the many new frontiers they would face as a family.

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Unique Challenges

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These acts of charity were well timed as the sextuplets tore through more than 50 diapers and a similar amount of milk bottles daily. The family had to shop in bulk for food, clothing, and toys to minimize costs. Simple tasks such as taking their children for a stroll required the use of customized, heavy-duty strollers.

Fascinated by the everyday

Media attention tended to focus on how the family coped with everyday tasks, like feeding eight toddlers. Challenging (and messy!) as they might have been, these moments were part of ordinary life for the McCaughey family, who met each one with characteristic good humor. Their upbeat attitude became an inspiration for parents everywhere. After all, if they could manage mealtime with eight, surely the rest of the world could make family dinners work, too….

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9. Joint Birthdays

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With seven children sharing a birthday, joint birthdays were a nightmare to organize. Luckily, the family had a good home dynamic which made it work.

Bedtime

For any parent, bedtime is not an easy hour, but for the McCaughey’s it was a nightly challenge, despite this idyllic feature photo from Better Homes and Gardens. Though they shared rooms by necessity, the siblings got along well. Looking back, they remember that “even from a very young age we all had different interests.” Nevertheless, they all wanted the top bunk.

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How’s That for a Lullabye?

What’s bedtime without some good night songs? Various artists, including Geoff More, Cindy Morgan, Ginny Owens, Chris Rice, and Kathie Lee Gifford came together to compose an album of soothing lullabye music in honor of the McCaughey septuplets. Even parents Bobbi and Kenni contributed a duet, “Tis So Sweet.” The song expressed their gratitude for the amazing gift of septuplets. And perhaps also for the peace and quiet as the last one dropped off to sleep….

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10. Hanging out

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Despite the unusual nature of the family, the kids still had a relatively normal upbringing. They had a large yard to play in, and they maintained a very healthy and active lifestyle.

A symbol of hope?

Like his predecessor, President Bush also found an inspiring American symbol in the McCaughey septuplets. After September 11th, the country needed a wholesome image to restore faith in the land of liberty and opportunity. Against all odds, these seven children had survived and grown into a beautiful, promising blond brood. Now, if only the leader of the free world could get them all to look at the camera!

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Not Twins…Septuplets!

Though they were all born within six minutes of each other (that’s right—six, not seven!), the septuplets were not identical, a fact they have had to explain repeatedly. Of course, this didn’t stop their parents from dressing them in the same clothes. “We didn’t really have a choice” recalled the McCaughey’s. Was it difficult for their older sister to be the odd one out? “Not at all,” says Mikayla.

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Fit that on the Fridge!

Despite their extraordinary number, the McCaughey family celebrated the ordinary accomplishments of each child—their first drawings and writings. The septuplets would go on to become good students who enjoyed school. And the good news for the young siblings was there was always an extensive audience at home for their latest works. The only challenge was finding space on the family refrigerator for all of them!

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Opening Presents

Buying, wrapping, and opening presents with eight children? Needless to say, moments like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and of course The Birthday were “big” in the McCaughey household. But how to keep track of which box belongs to whom? That didn’t seem to matter in the heat of the moment. Used to opening presents together, the septuplets continue to celebrate their miraculous birthday as a family.

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Mealtime at the McCaughey’s

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Organizing meals for a family of ten (the sextuplets, their elder sister, and the parents) was another challenge. Meals had to be made ‘buffet style’ where every person serves themselves. This was the norm for all three daily meals. The family also maintained a vegetable garden to reduce the costs of feeding their kids healthy meals on a daily basis.

Further Challenges

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Two of the sextuplets, Nathan and Alexis were diagnosed with cerebral palsy early in their childhood. Luckily, this did not come with any cognitive issues (and Alexis went on to graduate as one of the top students in her high school class). While Nathan later learnt how to walk on his own, Alexis required mobility assistance.

Seven from Heaven

Challenging as it was to raise eight children, the McCaugheys were unflagging in their belief that the birth of the world’s first septuplets was a miraculous gift. With help from Greg and Deborah Lewis, they chronicled their lives, and the importance of their faith, in the book Seven from Heaven, which went on to become a book club bestseller.

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High School – The Teenage Years

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In 2012, the sextuplets joined Carlisle High school in Iowa. They were all notably very active in the various clubs and activities that the high school offered. While all of them joined the school marching band, each of them had their own set of interests that they explored. Some of the activities that the sextuplets enjoyed include soccer, cross country, the cheer squad and the debate team. They also performed very decently academically.

Financial Independence

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One of the challenges of having eight teenagers was that the family was not in a financial position to meet all their individual needs during their teenage years. This required the McCaughey children to become responsible for their financial independence. To buy electronics, comics, and other items that all teenagers take for granted, they had to get jobs within the community. This is something that they undertook with gusto and enthusiasm.

Graduation

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In 2016, the graduating class of Carlisle High School included seven siblings. This was a huge achievement for the McCaugheys and was a testament to the exceptional upbringing that Bobbi and Kenni had given their kids. While all the sextuplets achieved decent grades, Alexis stood out by graduating with honors as one of the top students in her year. This was a bittersweet moment, as it marked the beginning of adulthood where the sextuplets would each find their way independently in the world.

Adulthood

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After high school, each of the sextuplets had to chart their own career path, beginning with college. The Hannibal-LaGrange University in Missouri offered all of them a fully funded scholarship to join the school. Natalia, Nathan, Kelsey, and Joel accepted the generous offer and joined the University.

Kenny and Alexis chose to remain in Iowa and join the nearby Des Moines Area Community College while Brandon chose to fulfill his lifelong dream by enlisting to join the military. With adulthood, the sextuplets have chosen to keep their personal lives much more private.

University Life

The septuplets described college life as “culture shock” despite the fact that five of them chose to attend the same university together. What did each major in? Kelsey chose public relations, Alexis gravitated to early childhood education, Natalie selected exercise science, and Joel and Nathan decided on computer information systems. It seems like no coincidence that all of these majors are arguably areas related to the singular nature of their upbringing.

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Turning 21

Despite their desire for privacy as they go on with their separate lives, the family made headlines again recently as the septuplets turned 21 on the day before Thanksgiving. As they had since day one, the siblings gathered at the family home to give thanks together and share the festivities. No more fighting over cake…or even the champagne. “We’re not only siblings, we’re best friends,” one told a TODAY reporter.

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The Next Generation

And there is more to celebrate: older sister Mikayla gave birth to her first child, Becham, making the McCaugheys grandparents for the first time. Bobbi notes that “the love for them is same but the responsibility is so different.” As grandparents, caring for just one who goes home at the end of the day is strikingly different. And does Mikayla have plans to have more? If so, she’s not saying….

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The Real McCaugheys

As the public checks in again with the septuplets at this milestone, parents Bobbi and Kenni have downsized to a three-bedroom, turning over the family home to a ministry for young mothers. Other siblings are engaged and may soon follow Mikayla in starting families of their own. 21 years later, the McCaughey family remains an inspiring testament to the power and possibility of the American family.

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Other Septuplets?

Since the birth of the McCaughey septuplets—the first surviving septuplets—in 1997, five other sets of seven babies have been born. In 2010, the McGhee gamily welcomed septuplets and posted this photo that, like many of the McCaugheys family poses, went viral. Why the fascination with septuplets and with families like the McGhees and the McCaugheys? Is it modern science? Safety in numbers? Or is it perhaps the promise of a family “built on love.”

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Pebbles Takes Over Title of Oldest Dog Ever

Amanda J

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With the Internet digging up the latest accomplishments, the oldest human gets identified every year. However, for 2022, the new age crown goes to the dogs, literally. Pebbles took the top honors for being the oldest dog living on the planet, removing the title from another canine that had just been crowned only a few months earlier. Fame is a fickle thing.

A toy fox terrier by breed, Pebbles is not a big dog, which does go in her favor. Big dogs have, in general, very short lives. Pebbles, on the other hand, has reached an astronomical 22 years (which probably equates to about 154 human years, give or take about 5). That allowed Pebbles to cleanly knock out TobyKeith, the previously oldest dog at a hefty 21 years old. The prior contender, a chihuahua, could likely claim the warm weather of Florida as his secret for longevity. However, Pebbles knocked that advantage out of the water with a similar locale in South Carolina.

The above said, the real reason Pebbles came to light was because her owners, Bobby and Julia Gregory, picked up on TobyKeith’s fame and decided they could do one better, highlighting Pebbles’ age. Sure enough, they reached out and applied to the Guinness World Records website, who then set about validating the claim. Getting the recognition to at least be seriously considered was already a big leap for Bobby and Julia. However, when it turned out that Pebbles was indeed validated as the oldest and would claim the title, the fireworks went off.

Pebbles wasn’t exactly the first choice; when the Gregorys first went looking for a dog, they were expecting to come home with something a lot bigger. However, as it turned out, Pebbles was making such a racket when the dog met them, the Gregorys decided on the small terrier instead. Instant love would probably be going a little too far, but it was pretty close, pretty darn close.

For the public statement, it was a nice touch for the Gregorys to describe Pebbles as ruling the roost, but at 22, the dog is generally just focused on eating, sleeping and getting lots of pets the hour or two she’s awake. And, according to her human owners, Pebbles is a big fan of country music as well. For her record-breaking birthday, Pebbles got a special dog dinner or ribs as well as a bubble bath. A few online readers were jealous.

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Lake Tahoe Trash Cleanup, Jumbo-Style (25K Pounds!)

Danielle S

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In the category of old, Lake Tahoe is easily situated in the “ancient” category. As one of the few alpine lakes in the United States, the crystal blue basin is a tourist gem and ecological treasure for both California and Nevada states. It is also filtered so well by the mountains and the natural drainage that water suppliers don’t have to apply additional cleaning to use it. In fact, the purity is so high, it rates a 99.994 percent quality level, something generally unheard of in natural water anywhere else in nature.

The above said, modern living continues to find ways to pollute things. And Lake Tahoe is not an exception. In fact, an unacceptable amount of junk and debris is making its way to the lake floor, being deposited in the water by boating activity, shoreline laziness, and animals dragging things off looking for food and then discarding the material. Eventually sinking to the bottom of the lake, enough of it exists to have prompted a major cleanup along the 25 foot rim of the lake underwater.

Utilizing scuba teams and paid for by a non-profit, a record 25,281 pounds of garbage were picked up and pulled out of the lake waters. Not all of it was trash; a few engagement rings were picked up as well. However, the greater assortment was lost items such as cameras, boat debris, wallets and keys dropped by accident, and a whole lot of plastic bottles (which, fortunately, can be recycled and put back to use). Clean Up the Lake reported that they ran a trailer full of trash and debris out of the Lake area every two to three days for an 80-day period. Other garbage included tires, sunglasses, soda cans and at least 125 lost boat anchors.

The saving grace is that at least a good amount of the debris was not intentionally placed in the lake. Many of the items are clearly the type that were lost by accident and have probably been underwater for decades. That said, continued debris and pollution continue to affect the clarity of the Lake. Since 1968, the algae buildup and sediment has reduced clarity from a depth of 100 feet to only 64 feet by 2000. Climate change hasn’t helped either, adding to the Lake’s temperature, which adds to algae growth.

To remind folks of the need to keep Lake Tahoe clean and garbage-free, some of the debris will be re-utilized in a sculpture and large artwork for public viewing and learning. Envisioned as an educational piece, the sculpture will be placed at the Tahoe South Events Center for tourists and visitors to view when they make their way through Tahoe City, CA.

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Cat Sneaks into a Shipping Container for a Serious Ride

Danielle S

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When your cat goes missing for almost five years, it’s a pretty safe assumption that the animal has probably passed away. What you’re probably not ready to hear is that the cat is alive and well, ready to come home, and has been away at sea. That was the case for one feline that managed to get itself stuck inside a shipping container that ended up on the North Sea, literally.

As it turned out, food brought out the stowaway. Realizing they had an unexpected visitor, the crew on an offshore platform were able to coax the cat out of hiding with a bit of chicken. Figuring it was going to get a better meal and care than sitting inside a cold metal box, the cat made itself at home with the crew and was nicknamed as a result. However, Dexter, the cat’s real name, was not an unknown. Once the story got out, it was discovered the cat had been a regular on the HMP Grampian as well, where prisoners working the boat had taken a liking to the cat and gave it a different name, One-Eyed Joe.

Ultimately, the Scottish SPCA were contacted about the unscheduled visitor and how to get the cat off the platform. With the regular trips made for supplies and personnel to and from the platform, Dexter was transported by helicopter to the mainland and put in the trusted hands of waiting SPCA personnel on landing. So now, not only has the stowaway cat been on a boat and an offshore platform, he’s probably one of a select few felines that has been in a helicopter as well.

Aimee Findlay, the SPCA rescue officer, was perplexed how Dexter got into a shipping container in the first place, much less an offshore platform. Dexter was then identified by micro-chip as well as his true owner, Bridie Dorta. Because of smart thinking with a microchip, Dexter was ultimately reunited with his original owner, who never expected to see the cat again after he disappeared. Dexter had always been a roaming type of cat, Dorta noted, but when he really disappeared, they thought he had been hit by a car or something similar. Seeing the cat again almost half a decade later was more than a bit of a shock for Dorta.

All turned out well though. Dexter was in good health, curious and friendly as ever, and he definitely seemed to remember his original owner when reunited. No surprise a number of comments were made about the cat having 9 lives and probably having used up his reserves to get all the way back home.

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A Kiwi Chick With a Maggot-Filled Cracked Egg Should Not Have Made It

Danielle S

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Kiwis are known to be the national bird for the country of New Zealand. However, while New Zealanders also have a reputation for being a hardy bunch, the kiwi bird itself is actually a very fragile animal, particularly when it is born. In one particular case, a small chick, not even hatched from its egg, was essentially on the ropes when found by hikers in the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua. Turned over quickly to the Department of Conservation, the chick in the egg was moved over to the Hatchery for care and a slim chance of survival.

Arriving, the egg was damaged, broken and worse, infested with maggots. Nature was already hard at work trying to claim the chick as a statistic. The staff at the Hatchery thought the bird had a chance and the damage was just on the outside, so it was placed in an incubator. However, the next day, on close inspection, it was realized the maggots were threatening the bird itself. Vets worked immediately to clean out the fly larvae and preserve the bird. Every kiwi literally counts as the bird among a scant 80 species left that have not gone extinct.

As it turned out, the timing was incredibly fortuitous. The chick was able to make it through those first days, grow, and gain strength. After a bout of antibiotics for good measure, the chick got a solid bill of health from the vets and adapted just fine to its new digs. From there it was able to gain in size and ultimately grew to a full young bird, active and strong in chasing food and taking care of itself. For the caretakers at the Hatchery, the stubborn chick is symbolic of the New Zealander spirit. It’s also a classic case of how much effort, time, skill and expertise goes into trying to save each chick and help the numbers of Kiwi birds grow at the Hatchery.

At the one kilogram weight level, the bird has reached enough maturity to be returned to the wild. The chick will become part of the Kiwi population, fostered and protected at Taranaki Kōhanga Kiwi at Rotokare. The story of the chick’s survival continues to impress everyone who deals with the case and the transfer of the bird as it grows, not to mention it makes for a good national story as well.

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German Shepherd Mix Saved After Two Hours in the LA River

Danielle S

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Scooby, a German Shepherd mix breed dog, was rescued after two long hours in the Los Angeles River. The river is fifty-one miles long beginning in the Canoga Park section of Los Angeles and continuing through the San Fernando Valley and downtown Los Angeles. It flows through a concrete channel on a fixed course. It only takes six inches of fast-moving water to sweep an average-sized person off their feet and carry them downriver. When the water reaches twelve inches, the current can move a car off the road. It was easy for Scooby to be carried away by the strong currents created by the storm a day or two before. The river’s current can be fast-moving after a storm, and this is what happened right before Scooby spent two hours in the river.

Scooby is a large German Shepherd, a breed known for their strength. Scooby was strong enough to escape his owner and a would-be civilian rescuer. Scooby’s owner refused to let go of him to grab a rescue ring thrown by firefighters.. Scooby broke away from his owner, but firefighters were able to get a rescue ring around her and she was rescued safely with the help of a helicopter. She was taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries.

Around three-thirty, in the afternoon, a twenty-eight-year-old would-be rescuer and good Samaritan jumped into the river and was able to grab hold of Scooby. After a few minutes, other rescuers were able to get the man a rope. However, Scooby was able to escape his rescuer and continue his journey down the river. After his own rescue by firefighters, the civilian good Samaritan was treated for dog bites inflicted by Scooby, who was acting out of fear and exhaustion. Dogs do not recognize when humans are trying to help them. They react out of fear in an attempt to escape the dangerous situation they have found themselves in.

The Los Angeles Fire Department released a statement asking well-meaning civilians to stay away from active rescues, including Scooby’s. Even though some civilians may truly want to help, they ultimately end up interfering with trained rescuers’ attempts to save the animal in danger, like Scooby. Rescuers often end up with multiple victims because, even though they have good intentions, these would-be rescuers are not trained and do not have the proper personal protective equipment to prevent injury. In this case, both the owner and the young man suffered from dog bites because they were not wearing the right protective gear.

Scooby was rescued after spending about two hours in the river. Firefighters were able to corner him in an area of the cement riverbed where they could safely stand up. The Los Angeles Animal Services Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team also helped with the lengthy rescue. He was suffering from hypothermia and had some abrasions on his paws. In addition, he was understandably exhausted and hungry. Scooby was able to be returned to his family the same night.

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