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Dog saves itself after falling through ice

City discourages people from walking on Sturgeon River

By: Amy Crofts

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jan 18, 2014 06:00 am

THAT'S BETTER – St. Albert resident Tim (last name withheld by request) gives his dog Misty a hot shower after she fell through the ice while on a walk on the Sturgeon River behind St. Albert Centre Tuesday about 1 p.m.
THAT'S BETTER – St. Albert resident Tim (last name withheld by request) gives his dog Misty a hot shower after she fell through the ice while on a walk on the Sturgeon River behind St. Albert Centre Tuesday about 1 p.m.
APRIL BARTLETT/St. Albert Gazette

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Outdoor ice safety tips:

• These sites are natural ice surfaces and injuries can occur due to ice conditions and natural and unnatural hazards such as uneven surfaces, cracks in the ice, holes, rocks, weather conditions and other skaters.
• Skaters use these surfaces at their own risk. Please check the ice each time before you skate.
• It is recommended you skate with a partner and dress appropriately for the weather.

It was a typical afternoon walk for St. Albert resident Tim and his dog Misty … that is until Misty fell through the ice and into the Sturgeon River.

Tim, who requested not to have his last name published, was walking his 14-year-old Labrador retriever on Tuesday around 1 p.m., on the ice behind St. Albert Centre.

“We were walking in the middle of the river and she headed for the other side – the bank – and I was following her and was about 20 feet behind her,” explained Tim. “Before I could get to her, basically half her body was submerged in the water.”

Misty had fallen through a soft spot of ice near an outfall, where run-off from the city's roadways drains into the river. Tim stopped and didn't go any farther.

He called for help and yelled at her to keep trying to get out.

“When I realized that wasn't doing anything, I ran home and told my wife to call 911. I grabbed some ropes and thought I would come up with some miracle-type saving of her life,” he said.

But when Tim got back, Misty had already managed to pull herself out of the hole.

“I didn't save her. I was certainly going to try, but I wasn't the hero. She got herself out.”

After a hot shower, the 14-year-old Lab was as good as new. Just hours after the ordeal, she was begging Tim to go for another walk.

Tim, however, will be steering clear of the Sturgeon from now on.

“I'm not going to be walking on the river in the winter. There are just too many different things to watch for and I can't prevent that from happening again,” he said.

Freak winter

By the time the fire department arrived, Misty and Tim were already back at their Braeside home safe and sound.

Fire chief Ray Richards said this is the first ice related call the fire department has received in several years.

“The fortunate thing about the incident that occurred was that it was on the Sturgeon River, which is a very shallow river,” he said, noting that shallow water can still present a drowning hazard for small children and animals.

The “freak winter” this year, he said, has resulted in a lot of runoff draining into the river.

According to the City of St. Albert, traditional temperatures would see ponds and basins frozen and inactive at this time of year, but the warm weather has created significant water flow from snow melt through the storm systems.

Retention ponds, such as the one by Fire Station No. 3 on Giroux Road, have become less stable due to the activity of running water entering from various culverts or surface drainage swales that feed it.

The city is therefore reluctant to open up storm ponds for public skating. Residents are encouraged to stay off the river, ponds and local lakes, as they are not safe for walking or skating.

“Generally people are pretty wise and do not take chances and stay away from the river and the ponds,” added Richards. “Anytime there is open water or water standing on ice, you should not be out there.”

Miracle dog

Misty has recovered from her fall unscathed, but it was a close call, admitted Tim.

“She got a new lease on life and today was another example of it,” he remarked. His canine companion's hind legs were replaced with artificial joints last year.

“If those legs were crippled like they were a month ago, she wouldn't have come out of that hole. But her legs kept her going for 10 minutes straight, dog paddling. They saved her life.”

In early December, Misty was unable to walk and was not responding to pain or arthritis medication. But within a matter of days, “it was like some kind of miracle occurred,” noted Tim.

“The medicine started working, she started jogging with me … almost like she went back six years in time.”

“She wasn't even supposed to be around this long. She's kind of a miracle dog.”

He also owes Misty a debt of gratitude.

“If the dog hadn't fallen in and made it onto shore, I was next,” he said. “In a lot of ways (she) could have saved my life.”


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