February 9, 2013 may have been the most terrifying day of my life. I had taken to a snowy trail for a run with my dog, Kiya. My boyfriend decided to tag along but would only walk while me and Kiya went on ahead.
To the side of the trail was a frozen river that I didn't even give much thought too because of the dense thickets in between. Kiya was off leash and usually sticks by my side, but being a husky, has a tendency to wander off from time to time, but never for long.
We had been running the trail for about 10 minutes, surely far out of reach from Devin who was leisurely walking behind us from a distance, when I noticed Kiya had gone out of my periphery. I turned to see where she had gone and heard a faint whimper beyond the thickets.
My daughter, my dog, my child, had fallen through the frozen river. I immediately ran towards the river bank which was completely blocked by thick layers of thorns. It was taking me far too long to get to the edge. By the time I made it down to the river I hesitated a second, fearing that my 120 lb self would be unable to handle the freezing water combined with the 25 degree temperature outside. Luckily, I had been with survivalist Devin Peterson, whom I initially thought was too far behind to help us but he saw us in the distance and sprinted up the trail. Just as my left foot broke the ice, I heard more ice cracking . Devin was about ten feet to my right smashing his way through the ice where our husky, Kiya was whining in fear. Fortunately, her head and forelegs were still above water but as she was trying to pull herself out her paws would just slip. The water was about chest deep so Devin was able to plow a path and pull Kiya back to safety. I couldn't imagine the cold he felt, although later he would point out it wasn't so bad, just completely numb, at least until the tingling sensations kicked in.
Through all this, his love and concern mixed with his adrenaline and fear caused him to suppress his survival knowledge. Upon exiting the water, we immediately sprinted a full mile back to our parked car and the whole time he was telling me how he should have removed his pants, shoes, and socks before rescuing Kiya. However, he was worried she was in the water too long or that she may go under the ice. As soon as we reached the car he stripped the wet clothes and covered himself with a blanket while I blasted the heat and drove him and Kiya home.
We were lucky that day, I never wish an experience like this on anyone but we all know anything can happen. If one must go into icy water in below freezing weather, I'd suggest sending the heavier or more fit person in. My body definitely would have been shocked by the cold quicker if I had ventured into the river. Also, even with adrenaline and mind racing, try to stay as calm as you can and think before acting. Take off any items that will be exposed to the water so that once back on shore you have warm, dry clothes to put on. You may not be as close to a car or heat source as Devin and I were. If time is of the essence and you are unable to strip then remove your wet clothes and wrap in a blanket or a coat.
This is a true story. Here are some offerings from rescuer Devin Peterson:
"I knew I shouldn't enter the water fully clothed, but I didn't know how much time I had or how long the dog had already been in the water. I made a quick judgement about whether or not I could make it to safety before hypothermia or frostbite would set in."
"The dog weighs 60 lbs, more when wet, the ice was relatively thick and the depth of the water was unknown. This was a dangerous decision to make given the potential consequences. I knew I had the physical strength and stamina to keep myself safe, something that was much more questionable for Ashlee, a 120 lb female."