Grand Haven Department of Public Safety officers responded to a call for help shortly before 8 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, when the animal’s owner said Howard had been let off his leash and had fallen through the ice off Harbor Island.
“The dog was clinging to the ice shelf when officers first arrived,” said Lt. Clint Holt. “But the current took the dog under as they made their way out there.”
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Sgt. Lee Adams and Officer Dave Scott donned ice rescue suits before working their way out to the animal. As they approached, the current pulled the tired dog under the ice.
Adams was able to break the thin ice with his fist, Holt said.
“He was able to latch onto its tail as it drifted under the ice shelf,” the lieutenant explained. “The dog was lucky. A few seconds more and they wouldn’t have been able to reach him.”
The dog was unresponsive and having trouble breathing when he was pulled from the water.
The officers took Howard to shore, where North Ottawa Community Hospital paramedics warmed him inside the ambulance and gave him oxygen using an animal oxygen mask.
Holt said the dog was transported to an emergency animal hospital in Grand Rapids. Later that day, officials reported he was up and able to walk.
There was no further information available about the dog or its owner.
Holt said the owner waited almost 30 minutes before calling for emergency help. He said it’s best to call for trained help rather than go out onto the ice yourself.
“A lot of people will go out and try to rescue their animals,” Holt said. “They get themselves into a position where they have to be rescued themselves.”
Holt said that it’s extremely dangerous to go out on ice anywhere there is a current. If you fall through the ice and can’t hold on or pull yourself out, the current could pull you under.
That’s something that everyone — including ice fishermen — should have on their radar even more so now because of the ice jams farther upriver. Once those jams break, the level of the river can change drastically in a short amount of time, Holt explained. The current will be much stronger and faster, and could cause ice to heave, even in the bayous, and someone already safely on the ice could have trouble getting back to shore.