2/7/10

Savior of the Day?

I would love to join the droves of East Coast residents in making lovely posts about how much snow we got and how pretty it sits untouched in the yard, but I didn't have time to take final shots of my aunt and uncle's lovely house. They have an enormous yard, and their property backs up onto a small local lake. There are steps that lead down from their back gate to a dock where they keep their canoe and, in fairer weather, will sometimes paddle around enjoying the large lake turtles that I have seen pairs of take down full grown geese.
But anyway.
I didn't have time today to take any lovely photos because shortly after waking up, at around 9, I let the dogs out into the yard. After yesterday's escape, I had resolved to check on them every 15-20 minutes, just to make sure. I doubted that they were stupid enough to jump the (invisible and therefore painful) fence. They get shocked. That's how those fences are supposed to work.
Well, a little after 10, I went to the window out front to check on them, and looked around. And looked. And went out back, and looked around.
And noticed movement in the lake.
Oh, thought I, some geese are fighting and broke a bit of the ice off. No big deal.
And then I looked again. Two black rottweiler heads were sticking up out of the water, swimming around and puffing like steam engines.
My heart started beating so hard I am surprised it didn't tear through my ribs and out of my chest. I ran up the stairs three at a time and threw my sneakers on so fast I tore off the plastic edge off one of the laces. I didn't quite have my coat on as I forced the back door open against the two feet of snow and slid more than ran down the porch steps. Luckily for me the dogs had already broken up a few paths through the snow, and I leaped through it like I was a rabbit, heart and brain going a mile a minute.
How long had they been in there? At least 25 minutes since I last checked on them. Had they been in there that entire time? Breath. Remember to breathe. Get their attention, keep them looking at you. Good, they're still swimming around fairly well. That means that they aren't going numb yet.
I slid down the dock steps on my but, not bothering to take the time to feel for each stair. I plowed through the snow and onto the dock, watching Hocus and Pocus alternately try to get up onto the ice or try to rest on a tree that had fallen in ages ago and had a few remaining branches sticking up out of the water.
Calm down. Call them, see if they can make it out on their own. Call 911, emergency services. No, call Patrick, see if he has a better idea. Patrick tells me to call 911 as I try and coax the dogs out of the water. They're about 50 yards out, but the ice is wet around them now and their hind legs have nothing to hoist their heavy and undoubtedly cold bodies out with. Keep them focused on me.
Call 911.
911, what is your emergency?
My dogs are in the lake. (breathe, calm down. Hocus, Pocus! Hey, guys! Come on!)
What happened?
I have two dogs, they jumped the fence, and they climbed out onto the lake behind the house and fell through the ice.
Okay, stay calm. What is your address?
(What is the address? Find some mail, run fast. There's a letter in the front room) I'm at -----.
What lake is this?
I don't know, I don't remember which one it is.
Is it -----?
Yes, yes I think so. (Breathe. Calm down, steady your voice. Where are the dogs? Okay, I still see their heads)
Okay. What is your name?
Kate. Kate Wood.
And what phone number are you calling from?
----------. (What do they need my number for? Please, just send someone out now!)
Okay. I'm sending emergency services. You don't have to hang up if you don't want to.
I have to, I have to call my uncle and tell him.
Okay. If you can, go stand out by the road so you can flag down the trucks.
Okay. Okay, thank you.

One last long look at the dogs, and I start the long run through the high snow back up to the road. The house sits back away from the street, with a long driveway connecting it. Call my uncle. His phone goes straight to voicemail, shit. The run there completely winded me, and I crouched on my haunches, trying to steady my breathing and crying. I call Patrick, let him know what happened, and he says that his mom (with her 4-wheel-drive jeep) is picking him up and taking him over. He'll be here soon.
Calm down. It's been ten minutes, can the trucks get down this road? It's twisty and sloped, and still pretty treacherous. Give them more time. How are the dogs, are they okay?
I make the journey back to the lake, slowing down at the fence and calling to them once more, just to make sure they're still responding. They are.
By this point, just as I'm halfway back to the road, I watch as a fire truck drives past, not knowing where to turn because I wasn't there. My heart stops. Will they turn around? What do I do? Try my uncle again. Calm down, wait. Hands in your pockets, you won't do any good with numb hands. Why didn't you bring gloves?
Oh, yeah. You weren't expecting to have to rescue the dogs from the frozen lake.
Three minutes later, the truck returns and I flag them down. A guy jumps out, and starts talking. Where are the dogs? How long have they been in the water? I take him down to the dock, and explain what happened.
Are these your dogs?
No, I'm house-sitting for my uncle and aunt, they're the owners.
Have you contacted them?
I tried, but the phone is off.
Okay, don't worry. We do do ice rescues. I'm going to get my guys suited up, we'll have them out of there in no time.

I follow him back up to the truck. My legs are so tired from crossing the yard that I'm running entirely on adrenaline. I watch the firemen moving around, one guy going to shovel off the steps and the dock to make room for the men going out to get the dogs. Two guys start putting on insulating suits and large plastic jumpsuits. They grab a mysterious tube-shaped bag and a large plastic rescue sled (they look like the orange things from Baywatch. Remember them?). I follow these two back out to the dock, and watch them begin. One man, harnessed and roped , slides belly down onto the ice on his sled, slowly approaching the dogs. He makes it to the break, and slides into the water. Hocus, the male, gets put on the sled first. He sits quiescently as they tow him back to the dock, which worries me greatly. I move aside and run back to the house, opening the door and running my fastest through the house to grab as many towels and blankets as I can find.
They carry Hocus inside and lay him down. He can't walk on his own, and we cover him quickly in towels, patting him dry as fast as we can.
Don't rub them, one guy advises. If the outermost blood vessels have started to freeze, the crystal shards in their veins will start to slice open the interiors with too much friction.
Pocus is faring much better than Hocus, and once she gets onto solid ice, runs away from her rescuers. I have to go outside and call her in. Meanwhile, the chief has pulled out a thermal body-wrap blanket, and we wrestle Hocus into it. It will deflect his own heat back into him, warming him up faster, the chief explains. Hocus is so cold that his shivering feels like I'm sitting on a vibrating massage pad. I stuff a towel under his head and rub his face down with another one, petting him and talking to him the whole time. Pocus lays herself down on a furry blanket and starts to lick herself dry, so I cover her with a blanket as well and go back to Hocus.
He's doing way worse than I had hoped. He's barely moving except for the shivering (which is good, shivering is good. It means that his body is trying to warm itself up. He's not in shock yet).
Pocus is my next target and I scratch her head and talk to her, drying her off and letting her press herself against me. My jacket is wool, and warm, so I open it up and let her steal as much of my heat as I can stand.
The jacket will have to be drycleaned this week, but that's no big loss.
I go back to Hocus, and Patrick arrives. He immediately comes to sit by me, lavishing Hocus with love and attention, making him focus on us. I fill him in, when my mom calls.
Still so pumped with adrenaline, I barely manage to cough out the story to her, and tell her I'll call her back.
One of the guys starts talking to me. Hypothermia is a distinct possibility right now, and I should probably get these two to a vet as soon as I can. Am I the owner?
No, they're my uncle's.
Okay, the vets won't take you if you don't have the owner's permission.
My stomach twists, because with each passing minute, these two could be in more and more trouble. Then the landline rings, and it's my aunt. My mom called them on the road, and told them to call me. I fill her in quickly, and she passes on her credit card number so that we can get them to the vets as soon as possible. They are at least two hours away, in Maryland right now. They'll be there as soon as they can.
Patrick's mom steps up and says, "We'll put them in the back of my car, I'll take them."
Pocus walks quietly with us, once we remove her collar. Hocus struggles when we try to carry him in the bag, so we let him walk on his own and help him jump into the back.
Off we go, to a vet's office about 20 minutes away that does 24-hour emergency visits.
We get them in, and head off. They're shifting around in the back of the car, so at least they feel well enough to move, though Pocus is looking a little lame in the back.
The vet's office was pretty uneventful, lots of paperwork and coaxing Pocus into a muzzle because she was very stressed about people touching her sore spots. Their core temperatures are normal, and aside from some superficial cuts and scrapes they seem to be okay.
My uncle got there at about 3:15, and we were out with some antibiotics for the cuts around 3:30.
The trip home was blessedly peaceful and normal, and I ran inside to grab my stuff before he took me home (Patrick's mom had left earlier to go eat breakfast and care for her own dogs).

Once home, I soaked in a warm shower to defrost my toes (I was briefly afraid that they would never be warm again) and put on some dry clothes. I spend most of the afternoon in wet, snow-soaked pants, and it was nice to wear a pair of dry underwear and sweatpants. Never underestimate the comforting effect of changing into warm, dry clothing after an ordeal. I had intended to cook chicken and dumplings for dinner, but Patrick and I were so drained after all of the excitement that we just decided to go out. We picked up some Boston Market and came home. We've spent most of our time home so far on the couch, relaxing and regaining some energy since we both have work tomorrow.

I just know that I'm going to be feeling all that snow-running tomorrow. Oh, did I mention I have to walk to work as well? Most likely in the road, since I guarantee half of the sidewalks won't be shoveled.

"A good snow machine will cost $2,00 and last four to five years. With dogs, you've got regenerative powers. Snow machines don't have pups.:
~Lou Schultz

7 comments:

Roxie said...

You hero! Those stupid, stupid dogs! Is the invisible fence even working? What a harrowing experience for you. SO glad it all turned out all right!

Owl Chick said...

Holy frijoles, you are a saint! Good on you for getting those dogs rescued!

Donna Lee said...

I am so proud of you. You are amazing. Way to go Wood Woman!

Olivia said...

Oh man, I was holding my breath reading this. I am sensitive to vulnerable dog stories right now, and it appears even big Rottweilers are vulnerable! I'm so glad they are ok and you are ok too.

Rose Red said...

Oh gosh, so glad it turned out ok in the end and that the rescue guys were happy to rescue the dogs in that weather. What a harrowing ordeal for you!

Dianne said...

Oh, what an ordeal! It sounds like you did all the right things, and the dogs are alive today because of you!!!

Amy Lane said...

Wow-- Roxie's right--you are a hero! Poor damned dogs... seriously... I love the critters, but sometimes, the things they do that are NOT good for them!