By Jaymie L. White
PORT AUX BASQUES — Late Saturday afternoon, Feb. 22, a community rallied together to help a family whose dog fell through the ice in Grand Bay. Shawn Walters said his family’s dog Duke, a golden setter who is almost five, was outside with their Australian shepherd, Ace, when the incident occurred.
“The two of them were out on the line and when the Australian shepherd starts playing, he starts grabbing at the collars of my other dogs, and it just so happened he unluckily released Duke from his collar. When we checked our cameras, Duke was gone at least 10 to 15 minutes before we noticed he was missing.”
Walters said it was Ace who alerted him to the fact that something was wrong.
“I’m guessing he could hear Duke howling from the water, and he was barking like crazy and bouncing off the door, so when I went to let him in I noticed the collar on the ground and immediately went looking for him (Duke). Knowing that’s his favourite place, I went a few blocks down so I could get a good view of the ice. That’s the area he will usually go to first, and sure enough I could see him out there struggling on the ice.”
Walters ran back to his house to find something to help Duke out of the water, and that’s when he thought of asking his neighbor, Jason Quilty, for help.
“I just bust into his house and hollered out to him. He came up and said ‘Yes, let’s go,’ jumped into his boots and went out the back door. We got the canoe down, chucked in a few lifejackets, threw the canoe in the truck and drove down.”
Walters said they both carried the canoe down to the ice, but the canoe couldn’t slide easily with the two of them so Quilty took charge.
“He told me to get out and he went on with the canoe by himself. Luckily he made it to him in time because, by this time, it had been close to 30 minutes that I’m aware of. It may have been longer.”
Walters watched from the shore as Quilty made his way out to Duke and he said Quilty never hesitated for a moment.
“You can see in the videos how close this came to being a real tragedy for Duke. He had no energy left when he came in. I watched him from the shore, and I saw him slip down with only his head showing. And I screamed out to him a few times and he managed to claw his way halfway up again.”
Quilty said he knew that when he got Duke in his boat he didn’t have much time left in the water.
“When he got in the boat, he just laid in the bottom of the boat. That was it. He was just gassed. Then I chopped away through the rest of the slush and got out in the water. It was nice because I saw the other boat coming and I knew if I got into a bit of trouble, there was somebody there that could help me a bit more.”
Quilty said rescuing Duke was a no-brainer, and that a lot of people came out to help.
“Just happy to be there, the right time and the right place. It took a while to get going, but once we got the boat in the truck we got it done. It was a good turnout. The fire department was there. Those guys had pulled a boat off from the other shore and were coming through. There was a lot of people who came to the rescue of the dog, which was really nice to see.”
Meanwhile on the opposite shore, Alex Carter spotted the ice break under Duke and immediately called the Channel-Port aux Basques Volunteer Fire Department.
“My buddy Mitch, who I was in the truck with, said he saw something running across the ice and we looked over and we could see it was a dog as it was running out. It got to the edge of the ice and ended up falling through. We went over to Hotel-Port Aux Basques and called the fire department.”
Carter said it only took the fire department two or three minutes to arrive after the call, and the Grand Bay firefighters work fast to get a boat into the water.
“The dog was really cold. There was ice starting to form on his fur and everything. I don’t even think he could walk. He had to be lifted into the car, but I saw a Facebook post after saying he was safe and sound, which was good. Everybody was really concerned. You could hear the dog whining and crying out on the ice. It was sad, but everybody did everything pretty quick, and (we) were really happy when he got him in. There was a lot of great teamwork.”
Captain John Collier said the call came in at 2:56 p.m.
“We didn’t know if we could do anything because we don’t have water rescue, so what we decided to do – there was four of us there – is we would go down with the firetruck and see where he’s at, and maybe we can put our extension ladder out and maybe we would be able to reach him. When we went behind the hotel and took a look, he was out way too far. There was no way we could reach him where we were at.”
Collier said they saw people trying to put a boat off on the other side, so they went over the give them a hand, but he went to get an outboard motor because of the difficulties they were having with the ice and wind. When he returned, Quilty was just getting Duke in the boat.
Quilty said being on the Southwest Coast, that water rescue training would be a nice thing for the department to be able to get.
“There’s been a lot of people calling for some equipment or training for the local department for water rescue, which I think would be a huge benefit to the area. On the Southwest Coast our weather fluctuates so much. One minute it’s freezing and the next it’s 100 millimetres of rain. The ice is so deceiving.”
Now that Duke is safely back home with his family, Walters said he is back to his old self and everyone is overjoyed at the support they received.
“It was great to see everybody pull together, and I’d like to thank each and every one of them personally, but I don’t even know half of their names. A big thank you to all from me and my family and Duke. We are greatly appreciative.”