BRENTWOOD — Time was passing and the dogs needed help.
Forty-two dogs were spending the night at the Watering Bowl dog care facility on Hanley Road in Brentwood when the water started rushing in Tuesday after the record-setting rainfall in the St. Louis region. It was 4 am
The overnight manager, at a different location, called owner Jeremy King at his home in Eureka, waking him up. She told him about the flood, and he drove to the location at 2615 South Hanley Road.
“The water was chest-deep, and the current was moving,” King said.
Inside the building, Clara Sage was working the overnight shift. She had been employed by the company for just one month.
Sage got the dogs out of their kennels and placed the smaller ones on tops of tables, counters — wherever there was room. She tried to get the larger dogs to higher places, too, but “numerous dogs were swimming around the lobby and the playroom because it was too deep for them to touch,” King said.
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At this point, the water was a little under 3 feet deep inside the building. Outside, King estimates, it was 4 to 5 feet deep.
Jim Conger, who co-owns the other Watering Bowl locations in the area, came to help. Because of the pressure of the water, they could not open the door to the building. But Conger happened to have an ax in his car — he had planned to take it to the office to sharpen it — and he went to retrieve it.
Getting back to the building was dangerous. Conger was pulled away by the powerful current heading down Hanley Road. He kicked his way toward King, holding out the ax handle so King could grab it.
King anchored himself by holding onto something — he thinks it might have been the rail along the handicap ramp, but he isn’t sure because it was underwater. He reached out for the ax handle and pulled Conger to safety.
Meanwhile, a large transformer across the street exploded while the two men were standing chest-deep in water. Because things weren’t dramatic enough already.
Conger and King broke down the glass door and made their way to Sage and the dogs. The larger dogs that were swimming were getting tired, so Conger, King and Sage pushed the dogs’ belongings off some shelves and lifted the dogs to those shelves, the only place left that was out of the water.
“(Sage) is the real hero in all of this … She was able to get some of them up to higher ground, places out of the water so they weren’t swimming for their lives,” King said.
The Brentwood Fire Department was already busy rescuing people along the Hanley Road corridor. They brought a rescue boat to the store and brought out Sage and four of the dogs.
Other localities had rescue boats in the area, too — Arnold, Valley Park, Union and more, King said. But they were busy with humans, so King and Conger spent an hour in the building trying to calm down the dogs.
“Some of them were so freaked out they kept jumping into the water,” King said.
Finally, an armada of rescue boats convened on the dog care facility. All of the remaining dogs, and King and Conger, made it out of the building and onto the boats. Everyone, four-legged and two-legged alike, was safe.
The dogs were taken to another Watering Bowl location on Manchester Road in the King’s Oak neighborhood. And King finally had time to assess the damage.
“There is mud everywhere. Everything computer-wise and electronics-wise was under water. We won’t even have an idea for a day or two. It’s going to be weeks for sure” to get back to business, he said.