A tragedy on Chain Lake last weekend involved a dramatic but failed attempt to save a Jack Russell Terrier through mouth to muzzle resuscitation and resulted in the pet’s owner collapsing and being sent to Princeton General Hospital.
According to Hayes Creek Fire Rescue Chief Rob Miller the incident was avoidable, and could have been even worse.
“We are going to have somebody die,” Miller told The Spotlight in an interview, referring to the dangers of open water on Chain Lake caused by the use of aerators.
The incident occurred about 4:30 p.m., when the fire rescue crew received a 911 call. “We got it as an ice rescue and later on it became clear it was a dog rescue,” said Miller. “We responded, added extra ladders to the truck and one of…our members had gone out in boat and rescued the dog,” he said.
“We did mouth-to-muzzle on it and gave it oxygen and chest massage. The dog was alive when it came out of the water and then it went into convulsions and died.”
Miller said the dog’s owner, a woman in her 60s who suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, was extremely distressed and approximately two hours later the rescue crew had to return to her home after she collapsed.
Miller said in a previous incident the woman lost a dog and then recovered its body in Chain Lake in the spring. “This is the second dog this lady has lost in the last two years,” he said. “The owner was very distraught and running back and forth, not knowing what to do.”
Miller said he has heard of at least one other dog that has been killed after falling off the ice on Chain Lake into a patch of open water that is created by the use of aerators.
The aerators create open ice patches of about half an acre in size, said Miller, and present a hazard to snowmobilers and others using the lake in the winter.
“They are skidoo traps,” said Miller, adding they also present a serious hazard to rescue workers who are forced out onto the ice. “They are not fenced and they are not marked and they are not lit…If you went in there are a skidoo I don’t think you’d get out.”
Miller said residents have posted warning signs along the adjacent roadway about open water and added the use of the aerators on Chain Lake is illegal. “They are a breach of the criminal code so it would have to be the RCMP that enforces it. If they are still there next year we will be recommending to the RCMP would look into it and press charges.”
Miller said two residents at Chain Lake are currently using aerators in the lake during winter, as some people believe it benefits fish.
Even though fire rescue workers believed initially Saturday they were responding to a call of a person in the water, Miller said it is not extraordinary for them to attend calls of animals in distress. “We have to. If we don’t the people who own the dog are going to go in there after it.”
A firefighter in Vancouver for thirty years, Miller has lots of experience with mouth-to-muzzle resuscitation. “You grip the muzzle of the dog and blow in the nose. It’s not pleasant but I would definitely do it for my dog,” he said.