A farmworker who says he learned how to lasso 30 years ago while working on a cattle ranch in Mexico still knows his ropes.
Jesus Villanueva was working last week when he heard a disturbance along the Roza irrigation canal in Yakima, Washington. As it turned out, a woman and her husband were trying to save their two dogs being swept away in the current. The dogs couldn’t climb up the steep concrete sides of the canal and a Yakima sheriff’s deputy had a rope but was having no luck.
Despite signs warning folks to stay out of the canal, Noya Deats said she has let her dogs, Fawn and Nia, off their leash before without any problems. But when they decided to take a swim they were swept away.
Matt Deats attempted to save the dogs by climbing down a canal ladder, his body half submerged in the water. He barely touched a collar as it passed by. Fawn, a Labrador mix, seemed to be keeping her head above water but Nia, an Australian Shepherd mix, was struggling, Deats said.
“I was trying to figure out a safe way to try and jump in and grab them myself,” he said. “You feel hopeless — you don’t know what to do, how to handle it.”
As this was occurring, Villanueva was putting agricultural chemicals into a bin when he heard the commotion and saw the deputy struggling to rope the dogs. That’s when Villanueva took his lasso and said: “Let me see.”
Seconds later, he lassoed each dog in rapid succession, pulling them to safety.
“I was amazed,” Noya said. “He just kind of came out of nowhere. It was amazing how fast he lassoed them.”
Villanueva was equally amazed. He said he learned to lasso in Jalisco, Mexico, where he worked on a cattle ranch, but it had been 30 years since he had roped anything.
The dogs are lucky Villanueva came along, because it’s nearly impossible to make it out of the concrete-lined canal this time of year, Roza Irrigation District assistant manager Tim Collett said.
“There’s nothing to grab onto and the sides are slippery, “ he said.
“Follow the signs, that’s what they’re there for,” he said. “Canals are very dangerous, especially if they are concrete lined like those up there. They’re very swift, and if critters or animals get in them, they can’t get out.”