msnbc.com
updated 9/2/2011 2:48:41 PM ET 2011-09-02T18:48:41

At first, Jesus Villanueva thought someone was yelling that two cars had fallen in the irrigation canal. Then he saw what had really happened — could skills he had learned as a young man on a Mexican cattle ranch help him save the two drowning dogs?

The drama started Wednesday when Noya Deats took her dogs Fawn and Nia for a walk along the Roza Canal, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported. Signs warn people to stay out of the canal, but Deats says the dogs had been let off their leashes there before with no problem.

This time, though, the water was swift, and when the dogs jumped in, they were swept away and couldn't get out.

Deats ran along beside them and called her husband, Matt, and police, the Herald-Republic reported.

After she had run about two miles, her husband arrived, tried to grab the dogs at a canal ladder but missed, the paper said. A Yakima County sheriff's deputy tried to lasso the dogs with a rope but missed.

That's when the chase arrived at the Roy Farms. Villanueva, who speaks only Spanish, was working when he thought he heard someone yell that two cars were in the canal, the Herald-Republic reported.

"I thought, two cars?" Villanueva, 54, told the newspaper through an interpreter.

Then he saw the desperate dog owners and watched the deputy fail to lasso the animals. He asked to see if he could try. Within seconds he lassoed each dog and pulled them in, the newspaper said.

"He just kind of came out of nowhere," Noya Deats said. "It was amazing how fast he lassoed them."

Read the original story and see photos at yakima-herald.com

Even Villanueva was surprised. He told the newspaper that he had learned to lasso on a Mexican cattle ranch but it had been 30 years since he had roped anything.

He told the newspaper he was happy to help, especially after seeing how far Noya Deats had run.

As for the owners, they vow to heed warnings to keep their dogs away from irrigation canals.

"We're so happy (Villanueva) came along," Matt Deats said.

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