Winter is here, and many lakes and streams are frozen, but owners should find a safer place for their dogs to play. Several dogs have fallen through thin ice in the past several days, including Bear, who we reported on earlier this week.
Officials say no ice is ever safe, and much of it may be deceptively thin. Dogs fall through, and people then risk their lives to save them.
“Don’t play on the ice, don’t go on the ice, is common sense,” said Colorado Fire Department Captain Nathan Mascarenas, adding that common sense is not always common. “Pets are family members, and it’s instinctive to want to rescue them when they get into trouble. It’s hard for anyone to watch a pet drown while waiting for help.”
A man and his dog were rescued Thursday afternoon from Lake Erie near Brownstown Township in Michigan. Eleven-year-old Coonhound Bart wandered away from owner Jim Swayze and fell through ice.
“I tried to walk around to him and it was just too deep, and I couldn’t get to him,” Swayze explained.
He ventured onto the ice and fell through. He climbed out of the water onto a muskrat hut, and could not reach his dog. Bart held on the edge of the ice with his front paws. Swayze called 911 and his cousin, Lance Eicher, who arrived first. Wearing waders, Eicher cautiously made his way out.
“I just wasn’t thinking. I just wanted to try to rescue the friend of the family,” Eicher said. “It broke and I fell in, and I was probably about 3 and 1/2 feet deep.”
He reached Bart, who had been in the freezing water for 90 minutes, and held him close until they were both rescued. He talked to Bart and rubbed him to keep his blood flowing.
“What if this was my dog? What if I was in the same situation? I would hope somebody would try to do the same thing,” said Eicher.
One dog was not so lucky, and Burlington, Vermont fire crews were unable to rescue him. A man and his two children were walking their dog on the Ethan Allen Homestead, and he fell through the ice in a ravine. A firefighter wore a cold water wetsuit, but could not find the dog who sadly perished below the ice.
Another dog was more fortunate after firefighters plucked him from frigid water on Wednesday night. Golden retriever-Basset hound mix Buster came close to death when he fell through the ice near Michigan City, Indiana.
“I could hear him gasping for breath and yelping,” said neighbor Barbara Tanner.
Owner Dave Klimczyk tried to save him, but also fell through. He made it to shore and was inside putting on dry clothes when firefighters appeared on the scene to save Buster. He had been in the six-foot-deep water for 30 minutes, and only his nose remained above the surface.
“That’s about all the strength he had left. He was pooped,” said Coolspring Township Fire Captain Wes Rogers.
Firefighters broke through the ice and lowered themselves in. They fitted Buster in a flotation device and pulled him the 75 yards back to shore with a rope. Klimczyk then took him to an animal clinic to make sure he was not suffering from hypothermia. He warmed back up, and has been moving around slowly, but is happy to be alive.
“Last night was horrible. I thought he was gone,” said Klimczyk. “I feel good that we got our family member back.”
All owners are strongly advised to keep their dogs leashed when walking them at all times, but particularly when near water, ice or other danger zones. Doggie lifejackets are also recommended – no one plans for their pet to fall into water and be unable to get out. If your dog does fall through ice, immediately call 911. If you are able to reach them, do not walk across the ice – they walked across and fell in, so what makes you think you won’t? Although you are still risking your own life, if you attempt to save your dog, slide to them on your belly – this gives you greater surface area and reduces the chances of the ice breaking. Use a leash or a scarf to tie around your dog to pull them out slowly and carefully, making sure your dog also stays on its belly or side until you are far enough away to safely stand up. If the ice is about to crack, stop what you are doing and wait for help.