How to Save a Life

The first winter after Spot’s death was hard for John.  When upland bird season rolled around in November, hunting alone with Sis was a poignant reminder of our loss.  It was an unusually cold winter, and before long all the ponds around the house were frozen solid.   We always worried about the dogs when ice was on the ponds, but we made a promise after Spot’s death that we would never put our lives in peril again to rescue a dog.  That’s a very easy statement to make in a calm, rational state of mind.  Unfortunately, in the midst of a crisis, it is impossible to honor.

On an incredibly cold January morning, John walked around the pond on his way to get the morning mail.  Sis headed down the pond bank and started across the frozen surface.  When she was about 25 feet from the bank, she encountered a weak spot in the ice caused by a tree limb that protruded above the surface.  A loud crack and a distinct splash told John what happened before he could turn to look.

Sis’ head bobbed to the surface, and she struggled to get her front paws on the ice as John slid down the bank and rushed toward her.  At first he tried to break the ice with a piece of white PVC pipe he found by the shore to create a path she could swim through to safety.  When the ice proved too solid for that tactic, he hoped it would be solid enough to support him, and he started walking toward Sis, who was showing signs of fatigue already.  He took the PVC pipe along, and when he neared the hole, he lay flat on the ice with the pipe beneath him to disperse his weight as he carefully inched closer.  He grabbed her collar and pulled her from the abyss as a wave of relief washed over him.  Unfortunately, the path Sis chose to the shore lead across John’s body, and as she stepped on his back, their combined weight caused the ice beneath him to give way throwing them both back into the frigid water.

Since Sis was trying to use John as a flotation device, he knew his first priority was to get her out of the water.  The effort he exerted pushing her onto the ice pushed him beneath the water, and the crushing cold caused a brief wave of panic.  He hoped he could use the PVC pipe to push himself onto the ice, but it only took a moment to determine the water was too deep for that plan.  As his wet clothes started to drag him down, the ice that was too solid to break before suddenly didn’t seem so thick.  Using the end of the PVC pipe, he chipped away at the edge moving slowly toward the shore.  When his feet finally touched the bottom of the pond, a surge of adrenaline helped him propel his body onto the ice.

By the time he walked the quarter mile to the house, he couldn’t control his chattering teeth.  Soaking in a bathtub of hot water was followed by warm beverages in front of a roaring fire.  When I got home, he appeared completely recovered as he told me the story of how he saved Sis and ruined ANOTHER cell phone.  At least this time he saved the dog, but he needs to figure out how to rescue his dogs without the need to save his own life.

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