Amazing Animal Rescues: On Thin Ice

February 19, 2011 | By Margo Ann Sullivan | Category: Heroes | 4 comments
Tags: strange but true, heroes, adoption & rescue, animal rescues, pet rescues

Photo by Brian Adams, MSPCA-Angell

Fireman plunges into icy river to save dog’s life.

CRANSTON, R.I. -- A winter walk along the river almost turned tragic for a black Lab named Trooper. The dog left his owner’s side to chase birds and fell through ice, according to Brian Adams, spokesman for Boston’s MSPCA-Angell.

It’s a story repeated every winter, as dogs venture onto thin ice and fall through.

“That dog almost didn’t survive,” Adams said. “It was an amazing rescue. Without the fire department, there’s no doubt he wouldn’t have made it.”

“Trooper had gone off the leash,” Adams said, along the riverbank where his owners often let him and their other dog loose. Their other dog returned, but Trooper disappeared. They searched; then across the river, they saw flashing lights.

A state trooper had responded to a passerby’s call about a dog in the water.

Trooper had gone underwater at least once by the time Fire Lt. Vincent Dimino arrived, Adams said. With no time to waste, Dimino plunged into the Charles River and grabbed Trooper before the river swept him away.

In a typical winter, the hospital sees dogs rescued from the ice about once a month, Adams said, seemingly a small number given the fact the hospital treats some 50,000 animals annually.

“It seems to be fairly rare,” he said, but added the number is probably deceptive. Most dogs through the ice don’t survive and are never found, he said. The cold overwhelms them, and they drown.

Trooper’s temperature dropped to 85 degrees, and he was losing the battle with the river, Adams said. The Ladder Company’s quick action saved him, and then the veterinary hospital took over. Staff packed Trooper in a Bair hugger, pillows that fill up with warm air, and monitored him overnight

“It was a bit of a scare,” Adams said because a dog’s normal temperature is between 99 and 102.5. But Trooper went home the next day and is doing well, Adams said.

A few weeks later, Cranston, R.I. firefighters faced a similar situation when Jack, a Great Dane mix, went though thin ice. The dog had ventured out for a morning ramble in his fenced backyard, firefighter John Casey said, when a flock of geese and some ducks caught his eye. Jack gave chase, leapt on a snow pile and ran right over the barrier.

“We’ve had so much snow, it was piled up over the fence,” Casey said. The dog kept going and scampered onto the ice, but before he crossed the marsh, the ice gave way.

He started barking. A neighbor fell through the ice trying to save Jack, Casey said.

“People just want to help so badly, they don’t realize the danger,” Cranston fire Chief James Gumbley said. The main reason the fire department undertakes the ice rescue is to prevent the people from going through the ice, he said.

This time, the woman was unhurt, and firefighters arrived in time to save the dog. The rescue took special training, Casey said. Firefighter David Zambrano waded out halfway with a rope tied to Casey’s back. On shore, more firefighters monitored another rope attached to Casey in case the ice broke.

“It was a team effort,” Casey said.

Firefighters also used a water rescue sled to save Jack, Gumbley said. “All of that is what it took,” he said; but even with training, the ice rescues can be very dangerous.

To save time, the firefighters changed into their cold-water suits on the way to the call, Casey said, and one bit of luck also helped.

“I grew up in the neighborhood where the dog lives,” Casey said, so he knew not to stage the rescue from the area behind the home.

“It’s marshy behind the backyard,” he said, making him doubt firefighters could have launched the sled there. Casey sent the rescue to the pond’s opposite side.

“We went around to a more open area,” he said. “It was more of a distance, but it was easier.” Jack’s hind legs were stuck in mud.

“His head and upper body were out of the water,” Casey said, but the dog “couldn’t move.”

Once the fire department’s water sled hit the ice, the rescue took about five minutes, he estimated.

“He made it look easy,” Gumbley said, “but it was difficult.” Jack is a large dog, weighing something between 75 and 90 pounds, the chief said. And then no one can guess how a frightened dog will react.

“You don’t know,” Gumbley said, “even a good dog may be panicked and start to attack.”

Jack cooperated, Casey said.

“He actually looked pretty happy to see me,” Casey said. “When I grabbed him around the neck from one side, he caught himself and hopped right on the sled.”

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recognized the Cranston Fire Department with an award.

Casey said the dog's owners, Brienanne Trahan and Logan Pacheco, adopted Jack from a shelter, so this ice rescue should count as the second time someone saved Jack's life.

Pictured: Trooper at Angell Animal Medical Center with owners Rachel and Gina Kennedy with rescuer Lt. Vincent Dimino of the BFD.

What do you think about these amazing rescues? Have you heard of similar stories in your area? Tell us below!

Comments (4)

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4 years ago

Great story. I'm so glad it had a happy ending in both cases. Thank goodness the fireman have special training for this kind of thing.

Good Point | Reply ›


4 years ago

Hopefully the owners have learned a lesson. Mr. Dimino risked his own life to save their dog. This close call could have been prevented by using a leash. The next time, they might not be so lucky.

Good Point | Reply ›

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