Jennifer and Michael Maisonet with their St. Bernard, Baxter, at their temporary home at the Wellsville Microtel. The family was saved by rescue workers from Scio, Friendship and other departments on Friday. Photo by John Anderson
By JOHN ANDERSON
Jennifer (Brundage) Maisonet and her husband, Michael Maisonet were sleeping on Friday when the phone rang and the neighbor said “there’s flooding outside and water is slapping against your skirting.” We didn’t think anything of it because we don’t get flooding and we are not near the river.
Within minutes, water came over the porch, the entryway and into the living room. After a 911 call, Jennifer was clutching her St. Bernard, Baxter, and clutching onto the rafters of the roof of the porch and water was up to Michael’s waist.
“I went into a panic and called 911 again,” Jennifer said.
The dispatcher, a female, kept her calm, assuring her help was on the way. Jennifer’s laptop left her hand and floated away but she would not let go of the dog. Michael had a change jar and his wallet. He couldn’t save his backpack with his medications and they saw a stream of emergency vehicle lights.
“The lights were lining the road with EMS, fire and rescue, but they can’t just jump in the water. They have to have the right gear, apparatus and people trained for water rescue,” Jennifer said, who became a volunteer firefighter 12 years ago ater her house burned down. “Using ropes, two were able to get to the house but the water was getting deeper and deeper.
“Friendship wasn’t actually toned, but someone yelled ‘the experts are here!’ and two guys from Friendship came out with what almost looked like boogie boards, took us to the road. It was the most terrifying thing I ever had happen to me. It was ice cold, but my adrenaline was flowing,” she added.
Jennifer and Baxter were treated at the scene, but Michael was taken by ambulance to Jones Memorial Hospital for evaluation because of his exposure to the water. He was later released.
“It was very dark out, too, but we’re watching pieces of our deck break off and float by, which scares you. Tires were floating by and our belongings,” she said. “You try to take it in with the confusion. I saw our tools from an enclosed porch float by. At the time, I didn’t realize everything floated out until we got a ride back the next day.
“We couldn’t get out because the road and yard was iced over,” Jennifer continued. “But we saw all of our belongings frozen in our yard and in the field across the street.”
But the tears started when she saw the toys.
“Our grandchildren are both 5. A playhouse we were going to make was sitting by the road. My composure was fine until I looked across the road and saw my grandson’s little tricycle and that’s where I lost it,” Jennifer said. “We were supposed to take my grandchildren that night. Matthew is 4, Jaelynn is 5. We were supposed to have them overnight. I am so thankful that at the last minute I said ‘Sunday is my day off, we can take them for two days and have them for longer.’ Thank God I said that because … I don’t even want to think about it.”
As for help, the Maisonet family seems to still be in shock. They are staying at the Microtel in Wellsville, but that money will run out soon.
They did not have renters insurance on the trailer and they had two vehicles, one a 2011 that is totaled and the other had money on it and will be paid off and totaled as well. The Red Cross gave them two changes of clothes and a debit card with $515. A family member paid for a couple extra nights. Jennifer, to feel some sense of normalcy, walked to work at her job at Napoli’s Pizza on South Main Street.
“I love the town of Scio. But without a vehicle, we are going to look for a place temporarily in Wellsville so I can walk to work,” she said. “It’s hard when you have a large dog, she is a gentle soul. But until we get our financial situation settled, we can’t move back to Scio.”
Then there is Baxter. At the Microtel, she is a celebrity. As Michael and Jennifer share their story with the Wellsville Sun, hotel guests walk by, stop and pet the St. Bernard. They call her by name and pet her.
“She just came to us three weeks ago and has already been through trauma. You see, she was my mother’s faithful companion since puppyhood. My mother (Linda Brundage) passed away on January 19 from pancreatic cancer and we felt we were up to the task of providing Baxter with a good home,” said Jennifer. “After my step-father died and through my mother’s illness, Baxter became her shadow. My mother had trouble walking and Baxter would arch her back to help my mother put her hand on her to get up two stairs or walk around.”
Linda thought Baxter would have to be put down when she passed away. But Jennifer explained after the coroner left the house, Baxter went to the bed, put her head where Linda used to sleep and started crying, with tears coming down the face of the St. Bernard.
“I’ve never seen a dog cry. But I knew at that moment we were going to keep this dog,” Jennifer said. “It’s been a very uneasy transition for her, leaving the only home and owner she’s ever known and coming to a strange new house and strange new routines. But, despite being clingy, she was starting to settle in. During the chaos, we were worried that in her confusion she might ‘turn’ against the helpers who came to save us. Yet those same rescuers spoke gently to her, pet her head, kept her calm, and got her out without incident. “
Instead of worrying about money, Jennifer wanted to thank the volunteers.
“I am absolutely grateful to all our local fire/rescue/EMS for acting with the utmost professionalism. They kept their heads about them while we were losing ours,” she said. “We are very fortunate in our small area to have such well trained, compassionate, dedicated emergency service men and women. Rescue workers were on scene almost immediately, We were encouraging each other to stay put, have faith, remain calm, and pray.
For right now we are staying at the Microtel while we figure out what our next move is and how we are going to accomplish it. Most of all we are happy to be alive and that no one was injured coming to our rescue,” she added.