Ice rescue in Barnum reunites dog with ownerMary Lou Gilbertson called the whole situation “hair raising” after her 100-pound German Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix dog broke through the ice near her home on Little Hanging Horn Lake last Friday.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Mary Lou Gilbertson called the whole situation “hair raising” after her 100-pound German Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix dog broke through the ice near her home on Little Hanging Horn Lake last Friday.
She said she had been keeping an eye on her three dogs, as well as the neighbor dog she was caring for, as she let them outdoors one at a time for a little fresh air and bathroom break.
“Chaz [the 3-year-old retriever] had been out about 15 minutes when I was going to call him back in,” Gilbertson related. “One of my other dogs started to bark, and it was then that I looked out and spotted what looked like a duck about 150 feet from shore in the current where I lap swim in the summertime.”
It soon became apparent that what she saw, however, wasn’t a duck – it was Chaz.
“For a split second I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding!’” Gilbertson admitted – and then she panicked.
“When you live on a lake you get used to being careful around water,” she said, “but with animals, it draws them right back. There was just no way I could get to him,” she said.
Chaz was floundering in a big, open pool of water near the channel between Big and Little Hanging Horn lakes, with an ice shelf between him and the shoreline. Gilbertson explained that ice had formed along the channel, but it wasn’t yet thick enough to be safe.
She immediately called 911, and within 20 minutes two volunteers from the Barnum Fire Department were on the scene.
“I kept calling out to Chaz, ‘They’re going to be here in a few minutes, they’re going to be here in a few minutes,’” related Gilbertson, all the while praying that his head wouldn’t sink out of sight.
Chaz was a special dog to Gilbertson. He had been dumped off in the Barnum City Park three years ago, and “somehow found his way into my home,” she said with a smile. “He’d been living a charmed life ever since – until now!”
One of the volunteer firefighters, who also lives on the lake, immediately recognized Chaz.
“He’s my fishing buddy when I go ice fishing!” he said.
Firefighter Kris Peterson said when they arrived on the scene, the dog was swimming around at first and then got his front paws up on the ice with just his head sticking up out of the water. The first thing he did was call the Moose Lake Police Department for mutual aid to come with their ice rescue equipment as backup. Gilbertson had a 12-foot aluminum fishing boat on shore, and the firefighters said if she had some additional line to add to theirs, they could probably use the boat to get out to the dog.
They tied the line to the boat, and Gilbertson lent Peterson a shovel to push the boat along. After Peterson climbed in the boat, the others gave it a push from shore and he managed to pole it along over the top of the ice with the shovel. He never broke through the ice, though he reported that it was only about three-quarters of an inch thick.
When Peterson got out to the open water where the dog had fallen in, he reported, “He was pretty happy to see me.”
Peterson at first grabbed Chaz by the collar, but it broke when he tried to lift the dog out of the water, so he grabbed him by one of his front legs and hefted him over the edge of the boat.
“I don’t know how in the world he managed to get a 100-pound shepherd into the boat,” said Gilbertson.
Peterson reported Chaz climbed right in, however, “dripping with water and immediately shook all over me!” he added.
Though Peterson said he hasn’t had any formal ice rescue training other than lifeguard safety, he said this wasn’t the first time he’s been called on to rescue a dog that’s broken through the ice. When he and his buddy were in high school, his dog fell through the ice some 20 feet from shore in shallow water, and Kris went out and rescued the dog, using an extension cord as a lifeline.
After Peterson brought Chaz back to shore following last Friday’s rescue, he suggested to Gilbertson that she get him inside and dry him off.
She toweled Chaz down and put his bed in front of a space heater, where she said he stayed for the next two hours.
“Chaz was pretty traumatized,” said Gilbertson. “The rescuers suggested I put him in a tepid water bath to warm him up – but at that point, there was no way he was going to have anything to do with water!”
The Carlton County Sheriff’s Office reminds people that after all of the recent freezing and thawing, the ice is not safe and can be unpredictably thin. Use caution and common sense before venturing onto any frozen waters at any time. For ice conditions, check with local conservation officer Scott Staples at 218-879-9434.