Saving A Dog Named Scooter At Gooseberry Falls

Enjoying a happy moment together are Gooseberry Falls State Park Manager Paul Sundberg and his daughter’s dog, Scooter, on July 16, 1997.  Sundberg had to rescue Scooter from the bridge construction in the background  after he was found stranded on the beams. (Charles Curtis/News-Tribune)


News-Tribune, July 1997

If you think construction of the new highway bridge at Gooseberry Falls has been a hassle for you, consider the recent plight of Scooter.

Scooter is a 10-year-old springer spaniel mix that lives with Paul and Karla Sundberg, whose home is less than a quarter-mile from the bridge. Paul Sundberg is manager of Gooseberry Falls State Park.

One night this summer, Sundberg forgot to bring Scooter in the house. Sundberg awoke the following morning, a Sunday, and was greeted by park employee Wendell Parker.

“Do you have any idea where your dog is?” Parker asked.

Sundberg didn’t.

“He’s curled up on a piece of plywood in the middle of the new highway bridge,” Parker told Sundberg.

The Minnesota Department of Transportion is replacing the Highway 61 bridge over the Gooseberry River this summer. At the time, only part of the bridge was complete, and most of it was a grid of steel beams. A few foot-wide beams lay across the bridge, and several 3-inch-wide beams ran the length of it. The 3-inch beams were not anchored, just loosely set in place. Between this gridwork was thin air, and below it, about 60 feet, flowed the Gooseberry River.

Near the middle of this gridwork lay two sheets of plywood that workers had been using the previous day, laying one in front of the other to inspect the beams. Somehow, Scooter had run at least 60 feet on one of the 3-inch beams to the island of plywood, then had become too frightened to return.

Sundberg tried to put aside the embarrassment of being a park manager whose dog had been off its leash while he and Parker decided what to do. They alerted the Lake County Sheriff’s Rescue Squad, but took matters into their own hands before the squad arrived.

They got their own piece of plywood, a 4-by-8-foot sheet, and propped it from the base of the old Gooseberry bridge to the top of a 12-inch cross beam on the new bridge. The beam led to the island of plywood where Scooter had taken up residence.

The idea was to coax Scooter across the 25-foot length of beam, then onto the plywood and up to where Sundberg and Parker could grab him. Parker came up with the idea.

“It sounded like a good plan to me,” Sundberg said.

But the feat wouldn’t be easy. The level of the new bridge, where Scooter was, is about 6 feet lower than that of the old bridge. The rescue plywood formed a steep ramp that Scooter would have to scale in order to reach the outstretched arm of Sundberg. Below the beam and the piece of plywood was 45 feet of thin air, then bedrock along the shore of the river.

Sundberg and Parker were in position, Sundberg reaching under the old railing hoping to grab Scooter, Parker standing up, ready to reach over the railing if Scooter got close enough.

“So, I called Scooter, and he comes running over on the beam,” Sundberg said. “I think, ‘OK, this has to be quick.’ I’m reaching through the handrail with one arm. I say, ‘OK. Come on, Scooter.’ ”

Scooter went scooting up the piece of plywood, which was slanted more vertically than horizontally. He almost made it.

“He came about four inches shy of my fingers,” Sundberg said.

Then Scooter started spinning his wheels. He couldn’t sustain traction on the plywood. He started sliding backward. He dropped to his belly. He dug his claws into the plywood as hard as he could. But he kept losing ground.

He dropped back, just managing to catch one paw on the 12-inch beam and scrambling to regain his balance there.

“I figured, this dog does mind, but he’s not going to do this three times. I’ve got to get him this time,” Sundberg said.

Again Sundberg called Scooter. Again Scooter scaled the slant of plywood.

“It was just like the first time,” Sundberg said. “Here he comes just a-running. He gets to the same spot and starts spinning again. But I think he was spinning faster this time.”

Sundberg managed to get one finger under Scooter’s jaw and a thumb over his nose.

“I clamped as hard as I could,” Sundberg said.

He pulled. Scooter kept spinning. Their efforts were just enough. Sundberg got another hand on Scooter’s collar, and Parker, working from the top of the old railing, was able to haul Scooter up to safety.

Sundberg did some tracking that afternoon and discovered that Scooter had been chased from home by wolves during the previous night. He had escaped across the river and up the opposite bank, then had tried to cross the bridge on the single 3-inch beam that led to the oasis of plywood. The wolf tracks followed Scooter to the bridge, then turned back, Sundberg said.

Wolves are not uncommon in the park. A pack of four has been living at Gooseberry for some time, and Sundberg has seen their tracks often.

Sundberg is just glad to have Scooter home again.

“He’s really my daughter’s dog,” Sundberg said. “She (Rebecca, 20) is in France on an exchange program. When she left, she said, ‘Take care of my dog.’ ”

Actually, Sundberg said, Rebecca left four pets for her parents to care for — Scooter, two hermit crabs and an aquatic crab.

“All the crabs have died,” Sundberg said.

Which made Scooter’s rescue all the sweeter.


Sundberg, the highly regarded and popular park manager at Gooseberry Falls since 1983, retired earlier this year.

Here are two related photos, of the “old” Gooseberry Falls bridge and parking area:

Tourists and traffic cross the bridge at Gooseberry Falls State Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior on June 6, 1995. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)


Cars line Highway 61 at Gooseberry Falls State Park on Oct. 1, 1994. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)

1 Response

  1. Dot Drake

    Quite a few years ago my son’s Chessie was lost in Tettegouche Park. The family had been camping and tried in vain to find ‘Speedy’ before they had to leave. They reported their problem to the Park Ranger. Maria found Speedy, contacted my son and kept the dog with her for a week while arrangements were made to return her. What a wonderful service Maria did for our family. We were devastated and feared Speedy would meet a tragic end. Instead, I’m sure she enjoyed her time ‘Up North’.
    Dot Drake

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