Dog Battling Cancer Saves Orphan Otter Pup in Surprising River Rescue

A three-legged dog battling cancer pulled off a daring water rescue over Easter weekend, saving a smaller, orphaned mammal from potentially drowning.

Gus, a 6-year-old golden retriever and poodle mix, spent Easter Sunday accompanying Ella and Lucy Hammerstrand, his owner's grandchildren, to a family gathering along the St. Croix River in St. Mary's Point, Minnesota, according to Fox 9 News. At one point, the dog, left with only three legs due to ongoing cancer treatments, jumped into the freezing water and swam out roughly 50 feet, leaving the Hammerstrands perplexed.

Handling the swim just fine, Gus eventually emerged from the river with a surprising find in tow.

"First time swimming with three legs and he comes out of the water with a baby otter in his mouth!" Ella Hammerstrand told Fox 9.

cancer dog saves orphan otter
A goldendoodle dog, suffering from cancer and down to three legs, managed to save a baby otter from a river on Easter Sunday. Above, a representational image of a goldendoodle and another dog jumping into water. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The family began a search for the baby otter's mother.

"I held him for a little while they tried to find his mom, but we couldn't," Lucy Hammerstrand said.

Unable to find its family, they wrapped the baby otter up and quickly brought it to the nearby Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville.

Staff at the center were able to discern that the otter pup was around 1 week old, much too young to be able to swim on its own. Otters typically stay in the care of their mothers for at least a year.

"The otter is much too young to be in the water - it should still be in the den with its mom," the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center posted to Facebook on Wednesday. "Having no idea where the den is, how far the little guy traveled, the otter has been admitted for rehabilitation. We were quite concerned the first 36 hours - he was cold to the touch at admit and we didn't know if he'd aspirated water, which could result in pneumonia. The otter turned the corner the other day and is doing well."

Everyone give a shout-out to Gus, the wonderful goldendoodle who, while swimming in the St. Croix River, came across this tiny young River Otter and...

The otter pup has since been sent to an unspecified rehabilitation center with the right pools and other facilities necessary to care for them.

"I think he [Gus] knew the otter was hurting and something was wrong... he definitely got a lot of treats afterwards," Ella Hammerstrand said.

Gus was diagnosed with cancer after a trip to the groomer turned up a tumor on one of his bones. In addition to rounds of chemotherapy at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Hospital, he also had one of his legs amputated in February. In spite of those troubles, his family told Fox 9 that he has not slowed down.

"He does just great on three legs," Cleo Young, his owner, said. "He runs as fast as he ever did."