Walking his chocolate Labrador retriever, Brookie, along the shores of Antrim Lake and the Olentangy River was a pleasure for Joe Crites.

With the sun shining on the morning of April 5, Crites drove Brookie from their northwest Columbus home to their favorite local walking spot.

Crites and Brookie were near Fox Lane in Worthington, north of Antrim Park and on the east side of the Olentangy River, when Brookie, who is 9 years old and trained to hunt water fowl, dashed into the river near a lowhead dam. Not long after, Crites drowned in the river.

"We'll never know if she saw a duck or goose north of the pond," said Carole Crites, Joe's wife.

Crites at first threw his coat out on the water to try to draw the struggling Brookie to safety. Witnesses said that the dog's head went under water and Joe jumped in after her.

"He was just reacting," Carole Crites said.

A neighbor called 911 at 11:08 a.m., after seeing Crites jump in and get caught in the current.

The Worthington Division of Police requested assistance from Columbus at 11:10 a.m. One boat from Worthington and one from Columbus were involved in the water-rescue attempt.

Crites, 67, was underwater for at least 30 minutes before rescuers reached him and pulled him out at 11:43 a.m. He was transported to OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital by Worthington paramedics, where he was pronounced dead at 12:10 p.m.

Brookie was able to make it out alive.

Carole Crites said she was married more than 37 years to Joe but during the past few days as they were preparing for the funeral, she learned things about him she never knew.

Joe Crites loved the outdoors and communicated that passion to his children, Kenny and Keely. Kenny and his friends learned from Joe how to change the oil in their cars. He taught his nieces how to cook special dishes.

"These are things they will never forget and things Joe did without looking for praise or thanks. He did them just because he was Joe," Carole Crites said in her husband's obituary.

A funeral Mass was held April 11 at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Upper Arlington. In lieu of flowers, the family asked for donations to Joe's GoFundMe page or a favorite animal organization.

Since his tragic drowning, some have asked Carole Crites if she hates the dog.

"There's not a remote possibility of that," she said. "She is a member of our family and he gave up his life to save her. How could you be mad?"

The Columbus Dispatch staff writer Shannon Gilchrist contributed to this story.

jwoods@dispatch.com

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