Dog survives whirlpool, drainage ditch during Charleston flooding

CHARLESTON, SC – The record-breaking storm that pummeled South Carolina has been extremely dangerous to residents of the Lowcountry. While some areas were hit much harder than others, the floods have left unexpected devastation in their wake.

One Charleston family found this out the hard way when their beloved, one-year-old black Labrador Retriever had an almost impossible-to-believe, near-death experience, right outside their home. Treated immediately by Charleston Veterinary Referral Center, Brees is now on the road to recovery.

Fourteen-year-old Tyler Morgan and Brees were outside playing in what remained of the storm on Saturday, October 3. “It was almost like a snowstorm to the kids,” said DeLynn Morgan, Tyler’s mom. “Our home is well-elevated, so we weren’t overly concerned about the flooding. We had about a foot of water and our boys were kayaking in it. Brees is an excellent swimmer and loves the water too, so they wanted her to have some fun as well.”

But what started out as fun, soon turned terrifying when Brees unexpectedly got caught in a whirlpool that had formed by a drainage ditch – unbeknownst to the Morgans – at the base of their driveway.  In a split second, Brees was sucked into the drainage ditch by the fast-moving water. A horrified Tyler tried to catch her, but couldn’t reach her in time. Instead, he ran inside to alert his parents. Thinking her collar could’ve gotten caught on something, Tyler’s father Steve tried to reach into the drainage ditch to see if he could feel her. DeLynn ran to the nearby creek that the ditch deposits into. Neighbors of the family also got involved in the frantic search efforts. While the creek deposits into a river, it luckily passes a field that is shallower. A neighbor drove over to the field and that’s where he spotted Brees, about 15-20 minutes after the strong currents carried her away.

Brees had been sucked in at the street, entered the drainage ditch, made a 90-degree turn to the main drain, and traveled 200-250 feet in an engorged pipe. Once deposited in the field, she likely traveled another 300 feet. Unbelievably, Brees was alive, but was experiencing labored breathing and suffered abrasions to her face, head, and hind limb.

14-year-old Tyler Morgan and Brees (courtesy - Morgan family)
14-year-old Tyler Morgan and Brees (courtesy – Morgan family)

Since the Morgans own several pets, they are familiar with the emergency and specialty veterinary services of Charleston Veterinary Referral Center (CVRC). DeLynn rushed Brees to their emergency room where Dr. Caroline Conrad treated her. “My main concerns with Brees were aspiration pneumonia, lung bruising, near drowning, electrolyte changes, cracked ribs, wound infections from sewage, and possible head trauma,” said Dr. Conrad.

Amazingly, her vital signs were normal, her physical exam showed normal neurological responses, her x-rays were clear, and none of her abrasions needed staples or sutures. “Brees was very lucky she didn’t have any major injuries or even signs of pneumonia,” continued Dr. Conrad. “She is a young, healthy Labrador at a good weight, which probably helped her keep her head above water and swim strongly through the event. A smaller dog, or an older or sick dog may not have survived.”

After evaluation at CVRC, Brees was taken home and monitored by the Morgans, who were given guidance and instructions on what to be aware of and what to look out for. While she still needs to finish her antibiotics to ward off any infection, aside from her trauma and abrasions, she is in the clear.

“We certainly learned a hard lesson,” says DeLynn. “As good of a swimmer as she is, and as little flooding as we got, it just happened so quickly. We are all very lucky.”

The flooding leaves South Carolina in a vulnerable state. What should you do to ensure your pet’s safety? Dr. Conrad recommends the following advice:

During flooding, keep a harness and leash on your dog while outside. This can be used as an anchor if they get swept into running water. A harness will also be less likely to cause damage to your dog’s throat and bear more weight than a collar.

Keep pets inside as much as possible during severe weather. Try to only let them outside into fenced areas for brief periods of time to use the restroom. Continue this until any standing water has started to drop to safe levels.

Do not jump in after your dog if they are sucked down into rapid moving water or a whirlpool. This can endanger you and cause more injuries. Try to follow them as closely as possible and get them out when the current is weaker or where the water is shallower. Take them immediately to a veterinarian for evaluation, as injuries to the chest and lungs can be life threatening.

For more information about keeping your pets safe during floods and their aftermath, or to schedule an interview with Dr. Conrad of CVRC, please contact Shannon Stevens at 917.886.5757 or


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