MOUND — A small island in Priest’s Bay of Lake Minnetonka has a new unofficial name — “Izzy Island” — thanks to the search and rescue of a corgi puppy the night of April 9.
Isabella, commonly called Izzy, escaped from the gated backyard of her Mound home and was eventually found on the island around 11 p.m.
“It’s a miracle,” dog owner Julie Distel said about finding the 7-month-old dog. “I’m sure she would not have survived if we hadn’t found her. We have so many people to thank for finding her. Say what you want about social media, but without it, I’m not sure we would have ever found her.”
It was a series of Facebook posts, including in the Lake Minnetonka Fan Club group, throughout the afternoon and evening that eventually led to the Distels finding the dog.
And the social media post that kicked off rescue efforts was a photo of an eagle eating something on Lake Minnetonka.
“I know it sounds kind of weird, but if not for that photo, I wouldn’t have known about the missing dog,” said Holly Rick, whose information ultimately led the dog’s family to the island. “It was kind of a meant-to-be thing; that my neighbor got that picture of the eagle, which started the whole thing.”
Rick, a flight attendant who was home on Tuesday, was reading and happened to glance out a living room window around 12:30 p.m. when she spotted what appeared to be a fox on a neighbor’s lakeshore property.
“But then I noticed its legs were short, so I looked again and I thought it was a little corgi dog. How cute is that?” she said. “I just figured it was one of the neighbor’s dogs, since I only moved here a little over a year ago.
“All of a sudden the dog jumped right in the water, off Kathy’s (Timberg McEnaney) property and swam, beelining it for the island,” Rick said. “It was kind of a big climb for the dog, but then I saw it playing on the island and forgot about it after awhile.”
Shortly before Rick was going to bed, she checked Facebook and noticed the eagle photo that Timberg McEnaney had posted. It depicted the eagle eating something on the ice-covered area of the lake.
“Then I read down a couple of comments and someone was hoping the eagle was not eating the little dog that a woman was looking for,” Rick recalled.
Messages and comments rapidly started going between Rick, Distel, Timberg McEnaney and others about the missing dog and what Rick had witnessed.
“After seeing the picture of Izzy, I was 100-percent certain that was the dog I saw go onto the island,” Rick said.
The Distel family, who lives a few blocks away from Timberg McEnaney’s property, had been scouring the neighborhood for Izzy. After learning the dog had been spotted going onto the island, they headed that way.
“We shined a flashlight out onto the island and saw those reflective eyes out there,” Julie Distel said. “We thought it might be a raccoon, but the way it was looking back, we hoped it was Izzy.”
Her husband, Bob Distel, commandeered a paddle boat from David Carmein’s shoreline property to get to the island and rescued Izzy around 11:30 p.m. He had to bail out the vessel upon reaching the island because the plug was not in it.
“I just can’t believe someone saw her,” Julie Distel said. “Just the random act of seeing a dog jump in the water and swim out to the island is so bizarre. She’s so little.”
“It’s an amazing community story,” added Distel, who estimates it was about a 200-foot swim to the island for the 15-pound dog who had never been swimming before. “It’s a crazy story. I can’t believe the number of people who automatically jumped on board to try and find her.”
Distel estimates the post was shared hundreds of times before the rescue.
“If not for the posts back to me, I wouldn’t have known anything about it all,” she said.
The Distel family has two other dogs: Ike, a 5-year-old corgi, and Daisy, a miniature pinscher. The family believes Ike likely got the yard’s fence gate open, allowing all three dogs to get free. They think Izzy followed Daisy around, but that Izzy went off on her own while the other dogs returned to the residence.
Distel got home at about 3 p.m. Tuesday and noticed the gate open and Izzy missing. She notified police, veterinary clinics and other agencies, and posted her plea for locating Izzy on several websites.
“She’d been out on her own for about 12 hours and we had no idea where she was,” Distel said. “When I saw the message of a dog that swam out to an island, I thought, no way was that Izzy. I was wrong.”
And all this happened two days before Izzy was scheduled to have a microchip implanted in her to assist with her location.
“If there is a next time, she’ll be a lot easier to find now,” Distel said with a smile while holding the puppy in her lap. “We’re all just so glad to have found her.”