December 10, 2013

Auburn firefighters pull lucky dog from icy pond

During the rescue, a firefighter falls through the thin ice, but man and dog are OK.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A wayward Doberman pinscher is alive and its owner relieved after firefighters launched a challenging rescue early Tuesday to pull the nearly lifeless dog from Taylor Pond in Auburn after it fell through the ice.

Auburn firefighters pull a boat holding a dog that fell through the ice. Video courtesy of Auburn Fire Department

During the rescue, one of the rescuers also fell through the ice but was able to pull himself free.

A resident who lives near Taylor Pond called rescuers at 2 a.m. Tuesday after hearing a dog whining and discovering that it had fallen through the thin ice of the 650-acre lake.

Firefighters arrived near the corner of Terrace and Sandy Beach roads and were relieved to find no human footprints in the fresh snow leading onto the lake. They decided to try to rescue the dog, which was about 200 feet from shore, Auburn Fire Chief Frank Roma said.

“The determination was made we could safely rescue this dog that was obviously in great danger,” Roma said.

Crews quickly filled an inflatable rescue boat and constructed a system of ropes and pulleys to secure the boat and firefighters to the shore. Lt. Don Therrien and firefighter Julian Beale, wearing buoyant and insulated cold-water survival gear, slid the rescue boat over to the dog.

“He was clinging to the ice ledge he had fallen in from,” Roma said. “He was exhausted and hypothermic.”

Beale slipped into the frigid water and pulled the exhausted short-haired dog onto the boat and started back to shore.

The rescue was caught on video, which showed the sled being pushed out to the hole in the ice, then brought back in.

In the video, Therrien walks on one side of the boat as he and Beale pull it along, but suddenly drops out of sight when he breaks through the ice himself and plunges into the water.

“He was walking the rescue sled back in and in a millisecond he was in the lake,” Roma said. “Even with the best training and best equipment, there’s always that unknown element.”

Because he was roped to the boat, Therrien was able to pull himself free, Roma said.

The video, viewable on pressherald.com, shows the dog lying in the boat, not moving.

“He’s completely for all intents and purposes unconscious,” Roma said.

Rescuers placed the dog in a fire truck, turned up the heat and wrapped it in blankets. They also gave it oxygen to help it breathe. Roma said the department has specially shaped oxygen masks designed for dogs but he didn’t know for sure whether one was used. The dog was rushed to the Animal Emergency Clinic of Mid-Maine in Lewiston, Roma said.

Although it was responding to treatment, the dog remained in critical condition, Roma said.

Firefighters were able to contact the dog’s owner, Catherine Clavet, who reported later in the day that the dog was doing fine. Clavet could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon. An online directory lists an address for her on Russell Avenue, which is about a mile and a half from the lake. A spokeswoman at the animal clinic declined to release further information about the dog, saying she needed the owner’s permission.

Roma said the incident serves as a reminder that ice is thin at this point in the season and people should stay off bodies of water until there are 4 inches of new clear ice, and 5 inches for snowmobiles or ATVs.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com

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