Weather Forecast


'Christmas miracle'

The frigid and fast-moving waters of the Mississippi River almost claimed the life of an 8-year-old cinnamon Lab owned by Steve and Kathy Olsen of rural Brainerd earlier this month.

Without the efforts of a helpful neighbor, John Carlson, the Olsens might have spent the holidays mourning the loss of Walker, their cherished Lab.

“Our boys are gone,” Kathy Olsen said in reference to her grown sons. “These dogs (Walker and Sam) are like kids to us.”

About a week and half ago, the two dogs somehow got out of the Olsens’ house, located near the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, and ran toward the Mississippi River.

She and her husband searched the woods after they discovered the dogs had disappeared and she told Carlson about the missing dogs. Kathy Olsen said Carlson immediately began helping the Olsens and soon spotted tracks leading to the river.

After an hour or so, Sam, a yellow Lab, returned to the Olsens’ mailbox, soaking wet. Kathy Olsen knew something was wrong because the two dogs always ran together.

About three hours after the dogs’ absence was noted, Carlson spotted Walker in the river, struggling to stay afloat but unable to climb out of the bone-chilling waters.

“All that was showing was his nose and eyes,” Kathy Olsen said.

Carlson, according to Kathy Olsen, fashioned a bridge-like connection with some dead wood and the exhausted dog was able to return to shore. Walker was placed in the back seat of Carlson’s truck and returned home. Initially, the Olsens and Carlson didn’t think the lethargic Walker would survive the ordeal. The dog was transported to Brainerd Animal Care where he was treated for hypothermia, Kathy Olsen said.

“I didn’t think he’d make it,” Kathy Olsen said. “I just feel it’s a Christmas miracle.”

Nearly two weeks later, both dogs are doing fine and the Olsens are grateful to their resourceful neighbor who saved Walker’s life.

“If it wouldn’t have been for him (Carlson) this dog wouldn’t be here today ... we wouldn’t have gotten Walker back.”

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860