Rachel Naumann and Penny stand next to Patrolman Americus Rambeau… (Kim Hairston, Baltimore…)
Officer Americus J. Rambeau wasn't diving for a penny in the Inner Harbor on Wednesday night, but he did swim to save one.
Rambeau and other officers from the city police's marine unit rescued a black Labrador mix named Penny from a pier at Harborview Marina after she left her Federal Hill home, crossed Key Highway and leaped into the cold water.
"It was the right thing to do. [Penny] was struggling. Exhausted," said Rambeau, who donned a cold-water rescue suit and had to swim under two piers to capture the dog.
Penny's owner, Rachel Naumann, who asked to meet the officers from the unit Thursday and hugged them, said she was at work when her roommate opened the front door to sign for a package and Penny got out.
She said she spent hours searching the streets.
"I wasn't exactly sure what happened," Naumann, 25, said, but later "I heard a boat was involved" from a "friend of a friend" who saw the rescue take place. She said it was estimated that 1-year-old Penny spent nearly two hours in the cold water.
Police first received a 911 call about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday that a dog appeared to be in distress in the water, said Detective Jeremy Silbert, a department spokesman.
A marine unit supervisor drove in a patrol car to the Harborview Marina in the 1000 block of Key Highway. Three officers went there by boat and spotted Penny. As they tried to get close to her, Rambeau said, she swam away underneath the pier.
He said, however, that Penny stopped struggling once she saw him in the water. She "was happy to have someone to hang onto," he said, once he got close enough to grab her.
After he got Penny safely onto the boat, she was taken by animal control officers to their facility for treatment for cold-water exposure and hypothermia, Silbert said.
Air temperatures at the time were around 38 degrees, Silbert said. According the National Weather Service, the water temperature was in the low 30s.
Rambeau did not require treatment.
Sgt. Michael Kain, who also aided in the rescue, said it was difficult to see the black dog at night in the dark water, but "it would've been the wrong thing for anyone to turn their back."
Rambeau said he loves animals — he owns cats — and didn't question jumping in after Penny. He's had to make similar rescues for dogs, cats and, more commonly, deer, he said. In 1998, The Sun wrote about another Rambeau rescue when he helped save a 79-year-old man who jumped into the Inner Harbor.
When Naumann picked Penny up from the shelter Thursday morning, she said, Penny was huddled under a pile of blankets unhurt but looked frightened. When Naumann opened the crate door, she said, Penny lifted her head and happily licked Naumann's hand.
Naumann said that Penny was wearing dog tags with her contact information, and she had a microchip implanted in her on Thursday. She had to pay a $95 fee to get Penny from the shelter, but, she said, "I'm just happy she's back."
Penny is not normally a water dog, Naumann said. She thought Penny was most likely going after a seagull.
On Thursday afternoon, Penny was still exhausted. She was a little shy in front of TV crews and her rescuers, darting behind Naumann and twisting her new purple Ravens leash.
But, Naumann said, "she's getting a big dinner tonight."