By Emily Plishner, Houndsman
In wintertime, dogs can get in trouble by running out on thin ice. Warm days can weaken ice on frozen ponds. Even in very cold weather, rapidly flowing water will not freeze completely, ice along tidal coasts will break up with tide changes, and uncovered holes in solidly frozen surfaces can prove to be traps for dogs. Once they’ve fallen through thin ice, dogs can have trouble climbing out again. Carry rope and a change of clothes in your vehicle for emergency rescues—you can tie one end of the rope to a tree or other solid anchor and the other to your waist when going to the rescue, affording you a way to climb back out of icy water.
Read a true story about a dramatic rescue of a dog that went through thin ice.
See a video clip of the above story.
My coonhound Clamour, 75 lbs., once ran over thin ice and ran onto a beaver lodge to bark at a raccoon on an evergreen branch overhanging it. I knew the ice was too thin to support me and I wasn’t sure the ice could support Clamour. I wasn’t even sure the beaver lodge would support him, and I knew it was occupied! I knew Clam wouldn’t even try to leave until the coon did, and I don’t carry firearms when I “hunt,” so I had to find another way to make the coon leave. Mind you, all this was in the dark of night, at least a mile from the nearest house. I lobbed snowballs at that coon for what seemed like hours before he retreated toward the tree trunk, Clam underneath him every inch of the way. Luckily, Clam didn’t fall through until the shallows, and was able to climb out on his own. He then proceeded to climb all over me and get me soaking wet. Now, I always keep along rope in my truck, and sometimes an ice grapple in thin ice weather. Just about every houndsman I know has had to wade into a partly frozen swamp at least once to rescue his dog. And none of them hesitate to do what needs to be done.