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Dog Rescued from Maine River Ice
Updated On: Mar 24, 2009

Dog Rescued from Maine River Ice

Andie Hannon
Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine

Mar. 18--AUBURN -- She may be a golden retriever, but Ginger definitely had St. Patty's luck o' the Irish on her side Tuesday evening when she was rescued by Auburn firefighters after falling through Androscoggin River ice.

"I think maybe she had a bit of spring fever and, being a retriever, she was just drawn to the water," said Ginger's owner, Fred Haskell.

Haskell, an Auburn firefighter himself, said that the 2-year-old family pet escaped from the yard after he and his wife left for separate evening meetings. The dog made its way across the street from the family's home on North River Road and wandered onto the ice.

Initial calls to the Fire Department came in about 6:20 p.m. after witnesses saw the dog fall through the ice. Haskell was at a parent-teacher conference when he received word about Ginger.

"I really believe the dog held on longer because she knew someone was coming after her," said fire Lt. Don Therrien. "I don't think she would have lasted much longer."

Therrien said the dog struggled in open water about 70 feet from the riverbank for 15 minutes to a half-hour. Several firefighters assisted Therrien and firefighter Dave O'Connell, who wore specialized cold water rescue suits to brave the ice and frigid waters and pull the dog to safety.

The two firefighters crawled out onto the broken ice with an water rescue sled they refer to as "the banana boat," while other firefighters formed a human chain holding onto ropes attached to the rescue equipment.

"You've got a good bunch of guys here," Therrien said of the rescue crew. "They know what they're doing and when things click, they click."

Therrien said the firefighters knew right away that Ginger belonged to a fellow firefighter. He said rescuers immediately started calling the dog by name, which helped calm her down, as well as give her the strength to keep dog-paddling.

While the knee-jerk reaction among most people would be to run out on the ice and rescue their pet, Therrien said the best course of action is to call their fire department and leave rescue efforts to trained professionals. Even in Tuesday's case -- the first cold-water river rescue of the year -- firefighter O'Connell fell through ice during the rescue. He was able to get himself and the dog to safety because of his training.

Haskell said that Ginger, meanwhile, was resting comfortably Tuesday night under the blankets of his daughter's bed. His children share nightly custody of their four-legged friend and both his daughter and son were happy to see Ginger home safe and sound.

"I was very glad when I came down the road and saw the firetrucks," Haskell said. "I knew if she was going to be able to get out, they'd get her out."


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