Dog, man, saved after Barker swim

Barbara Lawlor, Nederland.  When Nederland Police Department detective Darragh O’Nuallain arrived at the Barker Reservoir shoreline near the water treatment ponds, he saw a man walking out of the water carrying a brown dog, both soaked and shaking, and a second man lying face down near the water.

Another man, a boy and another dog were on the beach waiting for help.

“I attended to the man lying on the shore first,” says Detective O’Nuallain. “He was unresponsive and very hypothermic. I slapped him, trying to get him to respond and he finally began to cough up a lot of water.” The man was treated for hypothermia in a Nederland Fire Protection District ambulance while they waited for an AMR ambulance to transport him to Boulder Community Hospital.

The other man and the two dogs warmed up in vehicles as the story of their morning unraveled.

Michael Bruce, a Nederland resident, and his friend Brandon Horning decided the day after Thanksgiving that it was a beautiful morning to take Brandon’s six-year-old son Kaiden, fishing. Another person decided to come along for the fun. Witnesses say the man was obviously intoxicated at the time.

Michael, Brandon and Kaiden took Kayla, their seven-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, down to the water, followed by the other man and his dog. Kayla, anxious to get to the water, pulled her leash out of Kaiden’s hands and streaked into the icy water, followed by the other dog, a border collie mix.

Michael called for help and noticed that Kayla was heading straight out into the water and appeared to be disoriented, looking for the shore across from the inlet, appearing to be struggling in the icy water.

“I knew I had to go get her,” he said. “She wasn’t going to turn around and come back.”


So, he walked into the water, maybe 30 yards into the reservoir. By this time, Kayla had been in the water about 10-15 minutes and was no longer swimming in a horizontal manner; she was more vertical in the water and not going anywhere. When Michael was about neck deep, his calls to her were finally heard and she turned towards him. When she got close enough, he grabbed her and then carried her out of the reservoir.

By this time, the other man who had attempted to go into the water after his dog, who had gotten stuck for a while under an ice ledge, collapsed, unable to walk any farther, on the shore’s edge.

Brandon says he will be forever grateful to Michael for risking his own life to save his dog. “Mike’s worth his weight in gold to me right now,” he said. “I will never be able to thank him enough for saving Layla.”

Brandon says that Barker Reservoir has always been a happy place for him to visit and thanks to Michael, he will still have those good memories.

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.