Dogs And Ice

Abby The Labrador Retriever

Rob, I think you hit a button when Labs made the blog. Here’s a little story that may pull at ya a bit and open up some pages stored in the back of yer mind about dogs and ice.
Gwen and I picked up our lab retriever pup Abby, at 49 days old. Doug and Dale, friends of ours, baby-sat for us the few times we were away and Doug helped with the training. He had been at it for over 30 years and we went duck huntin’ for most of those years with our kids and friends.

Abby came from good blood and showed all the things that you want in a house ‘n’ huntin’ dog. At ten months she was workin’ the marshes and beaver dams like a pro and in her second huntin’ season all the guys were sayin’ “Bring Abby over, I can’t find the bird that went down over here, she’ll get it”.

Abby seemed to like going after pheasants even more than ducks. Geese were the top of the list, but of course sleepin’ on the bed at the camp was way ahead of all the other pleasures. She was an all-round huntin’ dog.

Abby On A Duck Hunting Trip

Proper diet, regular veternarian check-ups, and lots of love and exercise, but most important regular training and rules gave us a trusted pet and excellent huntin’ dog, three years old, 80 pounds of muscle and brain.

Abby In The Field

One of my favourite times at the camp is early Spring, when the ice goes out, the crunch and crackin’ the winde and the long awaited appearance of blue water. It gets ya goin’!

Lots of the readers are familiar with how the ice goes out, first you get the openings around the shore then the long openings from one side to the other that some folks call “leads”.

Well the first big “lead” on our cottage lake that opens is at the point in front of my camp. At night or in a cold spell the leads freeze over then melt in the sun the next day. It goes back and forth for a week or two ‘til the ice gives up and spring takes over.

One day a few years back, the “lead” from the point was 4 to 10 feet wide and had iced over from shore to shore over night. Although the sun was out all day it didn’t open up.

I cranked up the BBQ, poured a drink and turned on the suppertime TV news, Live at Five. Abby was out front chewin’ on a rawhide and my T-bone was smellin’ good.

When the news came on at six I poured another and went to let my girl in for supper…only there was no dog!

While lookin’ and listenin’ for her I heard the faint crackle of ice and thought the ice must be startin’ to move. As I looked out at the “lead” my guts went into a knot, there was Abby clawin’ at the edge of the old ice to get out of the water.

Luck was on my side, my little 10 foot aluminum boat was in the basement and some how it didn’t jam in the door. Before I realized how stupid and dangerous it was, I was running on the old ice draggin’ the boat. No paddles, no life jacket, no coat and slippers on my feet.

The “lead” was about 10 feet wide, she was on the far side, front paws and nose above the surface. I was in the boat and almost to her breaking ice and paddlin’ with my hands, she heard “COME” and turned toward me.

I had her half way over the side when I realized I was holdin’ on to her lower jaw. I got the boat to the old ice and dragged it to the rocks, she was breathin’ a bit, but when I put her down on the ground she didn’t move. I truly thought she wouldn’t make it.

On the chesterfield I dried her off and wrapped a sleeping bag around her, there was no life in her legs and her eyes were dull and far away, and I’ll admit to a lot of tears. Then she moved her tongue and coughed up a bit of water , a couple of big breaths and she blinked her eyes.

I spent the evenin’ rubbin’ her with towels to dry her fur and warm her up, she got half way up on her front legs but couldn’t hold it so curled up like a cold wet dog she drifted off to sleep. I patted her head most of the night and kept the wood stove hot.

She fell off the chesterfield next morning but managed to walk to the door, went out and did her morning “do-do” very weak and unsteady but alive. After a bit of breakfast and most of my toast the tail wagged once or twice and she got on the bed with a little help. Most of her claws were broken and bloody and her belly was raw and scratched from the rear feet as she tried to get a hold on the edge of the ice.

I hunted her the next fall but she wasn’t the same, the desire and the muscle weren’t there and she was limping after even a small run. X-rays and exams, pills and injections, lots of damage to joints and things that hold them together that can’t be fixed, however, she is comfortable and gets around well now that we have found the right meds.

We haven’t hunted her for the last three seasons, I haven’t gone duckin’ either, she knows the sounds of me getting’ my gear together and it’s not the same without her. So we’re retired from the “mud and the blood” but she’s still a great camp dog, loves to fetch and still swims a bit.

Abby and Larry

Lessons Learned

If there’s a lesson to be learned Rob, I guess it would be that ice is a dangerous thing not just for people but for pets too. Be careful, I’m lucky my dog didn’t drown, luckier I didn’t go down with her.

Editor Note:

If that isn’t a great reminder of the dangers of frozen lakes and a lesson for all of us that spend time around frozen ponds, rivers and lakes, I don’t know what is. Several years ago, a man lost his life in that same “lead” that Larry mentioned when his four wheeler broke through thin ice as a the lead thawed and froze again. In these days of fluctuating temperatures it’s important to remember that “leads” or openings in frozen lakes can occur at anytime.
Play safe.

Can I Walk On The Ice

With that in mind, because I can’t preach to you about this enough, here is the ice fishing thickness chart. Can I Walk On Ice?

Ice Thickness Weight Chart

Ice Thickness Chart

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