Rescuers Saves A Dog From Freezing By Taking A Terrible Risk

Walking your dog should theoretically be one of those activities that clears your head and helps you find inner peace. It’s just you, your four-legged buddy, maybe a few disposable bags for poop-related business, and the outdoors.

But in December 2017, when a dog walker took a nine-year-old Labrador named Hardy for a stroll along England’s River Wansbeck, the journey was anything but meditative. That was because Hardy took off running for the river he loved frolicking in during the summer months.

Unfortunately, Hardy didn’t account for the 21-degree temperature—and he found himself quite literally on thin ice.

Usually, the River Wansbeck in England is a fantastic spot for walking your dog. The river winds through small villages and country hillsides, and dogs and their owners alike enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells. Recently, though, those pleasantries were lost on one dog walker.

On December 13, 2017, while England was facing an unusual cold spell, a dog walker decided to take a nine-year-old Labrador named Hardy for a stroll along the Wansbeck River. That was when the pooch had an idea: he was going to go for a swim! Hardy took off running toward the water, not accounting for one major detail…

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Winters in England are cold, and on this particular winter day, it was only about 21 degrees Fahrenheit: in other words, the water was frozen. The pooch made it halfway out on to the ice before the unspeakable happened. The water cracked, and he fell in.

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Talk about a nightmarish scenario for any dog—or dog walker! Now stuck in below-freezing water and unable to pull himself out onto the solid ice, Hardy struggled to stay afloat. He needed help—and fast—because drowning wasn’t the only danger posed by freezing water.

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According to Scientific American, your body goes into shock during the first minutes you spend in frozen water. You instinctively take sharp, deep breaths as you try not to swallow any water, and you typically have about 15 minutes before fatigue sets in. The same goes for dogs.

Seth Casteel / Underwater Puppies via Thrillist

Hardy the Labrador survived those first potentially deadly minutes of shock, but he wasn’t in the clear just yet. Meanwhile, his dog walker was frantic. Luckily, a nearby rowing club saw Hardy’s struggle and alerted the fire department, which, in turn, alerted the RSPCA. Help was on the way—but would it come in time?

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With rescuers on their way, Hardy faced another deadly threat: hypothermia. That would be the lethargy, frostbite, and organ failure that followed a dip in body temperature, and it was the last thing Hardy needed if he was going to survive. The race to save him was on…

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For nearly an hour, Hardy struggled keeping himself afloat in freezing water, a remarkable feat for man or canine. Finally, Inspector Jaqui Miller and her fellow firefighters arrived at the scene. But could they save Hardy?

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The dog was far from the bank and almost completely submerged in frozen water. At any minute, Hardy could succumb to the cold. “We were really worried about poor Hardy,” Inspector Miller said. Her team wasted no time launching their rescue plan.

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The problem with ice rescues is that they’re inherently dangerous. If the ice cracked and swallowed up those in need of rescue, what’s stopping it from giving way on the rescuer, too? Luckily, Inspector Miller and her firefighters were prepared…

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The RSPCA’s press release relayed a bit of the rescue’s details. “I made sure I was securely fastened to the rope and started across the ice,” Inspector Miller reported. This way, if she fell into the water, helpers could pull her out. But would she reach Hardy in time?

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Lying down on her stomach so as not to slip—and require rescue herself—Inspector Miller inched her way toward Hardy using an ice pick. The Labrador struggled as Inspector Miller slid closer, calling out reassurances to the poor pooch all the while.

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She slid across the ice inch by inch until she was finally able to reach out and grab the shaking Hardy. She pulled herself right beside him. “I managed to grab him by his scruff and help Hardy push himself up onto the ice,” she said. He was free—or was he?

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After an hour in freezing water, surely Hardy would have faced terrible symptoms of cold. “He must have been freezing because he didn’t hang around but scampered off towards his dog walker,” Inspector Miller said. She could only imagine Hardy’s suffering…

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As Hardy scurried back to shore, firefighters pulled on the rope attached to Inspector Miller. Through deep breaths, her excitement was audible—it was the thrill of someone who saved a life. Still, she’d have to see how Hardy had fared internally before she could rest easy.

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Stepping back on to shore and climbing through the reeds with the helping hand of a firefighter, Inspector Miller rushed over to Hardy where his walker toweled him off. The firefighters, along with Inspector Miller, they inspected the damage.

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The Labrador was in perfect condition—well, almost. “He had a small cut on his paw and was pretty cold but apart from this he was absolutely fine,” Inspector Miller said. After an hour in freezing water, Hardy put on a seriously amazing display of toughness!

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Later in the day, Inspector Miller visited Hardy at home and found him acting as though he hadn’t been through a traumatic, life-threatening event. “He’s quite a strong dog who’s been used to swimming in the North Sea,” she said, “so he seemed pretty unfazed by it all.”

Hardy even got a few sausages out of the whole ordeal!

Mother Nature / YouTube

Afterwards, the hero of the day proved quite gracious. “I’d like to say a huge thank you to the fire services,” Inspector Miller said. “They were brilliant in putting a contingency rescue plan in place—and it paid off, as we brought Hardy to safety!”

Mother Nature / YouTube

When you watch the video below, you’ll see the whole rescue unfold, start to finish. Meanwhile, the RSPCA used Hardy’s story to offer some advice to all dog owners: don’t chase after your dog if he ends up in an icy situation. Instead, call the proper rescue services to get the job done. That way, like Hardy, you and your pooch can survive another day!

That poor dog walker never expected to face this kind of nightmare when taking Hardy out for a stroll. Luckily for Hardy, rescuers knew just what to do!

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