Dog safe after being alone in record cold for a week

Hooch survived arctic temperatures.

Hooch survived arctic temperatures.

Jan. 7, 2014

Oak Creek — A man and dog were reunited after a week apart Tuesday. The happy moment came thanks to a routine water main check.

Hooch, a 150-pound rottweiler, went missing on Jan. 1 in South Milwaukee. Owner Joe Bellehumeur's friend, Diane Mihalko, posted fliers and launched a social media campaign to find him.

On Tuesday morning, Oak Creek Water and Sewer Utility worker Ryan Maughan was looking for leaks in the water main at Nicholson and Puetz roads when he heard barking. It was Hooch, sitting under a bridge. Maughan called his manager, who had heard about the missing dog. After a few phone calls, Hooch was in Bellehumeur's car.

Despite being alone in some of the coldest temperatures Oak Creek has seen in decades, Hooch survived relatively unharmed. Bellehumeur said the dog had what looked to be minor frostbite on his paws and around his mouth, but otherwise looked healthy.

"What a survivor, eh?" Bellehumeur exclaimed. "There is no way you or I would have ever lived in those extremes."

The day Hooch went missing, several callers reported him walking in and out of traffic near Puetz Road and Pennsylvania Avenue, Oak Creek Police Capt. Michael Bolender said. Officers tried capturing the dog, but were unsuccessful.

In the following days, Bellehumeur said he received many calls about his missing dog; all were dead ends. He had all but given up hope Hooch would return.

It wasn't until he saw his furry friend that he broke down in tears.

"He's my little buddy," Bellehumeur said.

"It's just nice to know that the dog is safe and warm again," Maughan said. "I like dogs, and I don't want a dog being hurt."

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