Sophomore injures knee saving classmate’s dog

Junior Lauren Harpold’s father shook her awake at 4:30 a.m. Water was streaming into their house, and they needed to evacuate immediately.

Harpold, a junior, lives in Braes Heights, one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods during Harvey. Her house is next to Brays Bayou, which quickly overflowed during the heavy rains on Sunday, Aug. 27. The water rose just over two feet in her house and backyard.

Harpold was forced to decide what to do with her five pets. She placed her kitten Smokey high on a bathroom counter and her other cat, Olive, onto her bed. Then, she packed her older cat Kellen into a carrier, which she brought with her as she evacuated. Her labrador Mandie was safe in the garage, but her favorite dog, a border collie named Blanco, was stranded in the backyard as the water rose. He was too big for her to safely move, so she had to leave him behind.

Harpold and her parents waded through waist-high water on Glen Arbor Drive to a two-story house that did not flood. At Harvey’s peak, the house held 15 evacuees and 13 animals.

Once she reached safety, Harpold texted a her neighbor, sophomore Claire Seinsheimer, about Blanco’s situation. Harpold’s father had planned to return for Blanco, but the water in the street had risen above five feet, and the current was swift.

Harpold and Seinsheimer saw on Snapchat that another neighbor, sophomore Luke Venus, had not yet left his house, so Seinsheimer asked him to check on Blanco.    

Venus feared the dog would drown if he didn’t act fast. He climbed over the fence that separated his house from the Harpolds’ and waded through their backyard. He found Blanco paddling through the water, which had risen above the dog’s head.

“He definitely would have drowned if not for Luke,” Harpold said.

While trying to reach Blanco, Venus’ leg caught on some debris, and he fell into the Harpolds’ swimming pool. After limping for a week, Venus discovered that he had torn his ACL. Venus was a varsity football starter, but he is out for the season because he will need surgery.

Once Venus reached Blanco, his father called Grant Harpold, Lauren’s father, to find out their gate code, and Venus eventually led Blanco out of the flooded backyard and into the Venus’ house, where he was later retrieved by Mr. Harpold.

Venus and his family evacuated to the same house as the Harpolds, where Venus took his own dog Dax. Dax, a labrador, had to swim part of the way since the current was strong and the floodwater was over his head at some points.

Blanco was safe but Harvey continued to rage outside. The street had become a five-foot-deep river. Harpold could only see the tops of trees poking above the water, and neighbors who had not evacuated in time had to be airlifted off their roofs by the Coast Guard. That night, Harpold couldn’t sleep.

Once the waters receded, the Harpolds returned to assess the damage caused by the two feet of water that had breached their house. Both the Venuses and the Harpolds plan to tear down their homes and rebuild them higher so that they won’t flood again. Harpold is currently living in a rental house in West University Place, and misses her home, car and belongings.

“I would give up every other piece of furniture just to have my bed back,” she said.

Though Venus faced significant injury as a result of his canine rescue, he doesn’t regret his choice.

“It was the right thing to do,” Venus said. “I wasn’t just going to let an animal die. I had a responsibility to that dog.”