Dog fighting cancer rescues orphan otter pup from St. Croix River

Ella and Lucy Hammerstrand spent their Easter Sunday surrounded by family along the banks of the St. Croix River. Alongside them for the entire day was Gus, their grandparent’s beloved six-year-old Goldendoodle. 

"He’s very friendly, and he’s very smart and he’s very loving," said Cleo Young, Gus’ mom and Ella and Lucy’s grandma. 

They were outside helping with some chores when Gus jumped in the water and swam out about 50 feet. 

Ella and Lucy were confused. It was freezing out, and they didn’t know if Gus could swim anymore. He was recently diagnosed with cancer and had his leg amputated in February. 

"We thought he had a knee injury, perhaps from a fall on the ice, so we were just looking to have that repaired," said Young. 

A groomer discovered the tumor on one of Gus’ bones. He’s currently receiving chemotherapy at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Hospital, but the loss of one leg hasn’t slowed him down.  

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

And as his family learned that day, he also swims just as well with three legs. 

When he emerged from the water, he was not alone. 

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

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

They wrapped up the pup and rushed to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota in Roseville. 

"He was so cute. His eyes weren’t even open could just see his little fingernails and his little tail. He almost like curled into a little ball," said Ella. 

The staff at WRC estimates the pup is right around a week old, far too young to be swimming alone. Otter pups typically stay with their moms for the entire first year of their lives. 

The baby otter has since been transferred to another rehab facility with the specific pools needed to raise a pup. As for Gus, he’s been enjoying a lot of pets and a lot of bones. 

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