First Responders Battle Sub-Zero Temperatures To Save Dogs from Icy River

by Matthew Memrick

A couple of Montana dogs chasing geese fell through an icy river and got rescued by Great Falls firefighters on Tuesday.

KRTV reported that the dogs fell through the Missouri River, and outside temperatures were about minus-24 degrees without the wind on Tuesday.

Great Falls Fire Rescue Chief Jeremy Jones told Newsweek that first responders wore rescue suits before jumping in for the rescue near a boat ramp. 

Jones said the rescue was “a four-minute rescue mission.” He added that the “responders had their ice water suits on” and “get secure with safety rope” before reaching the dogs. Their special suits kept them from danger.

Great Falls Emergency Services field paramedic Erik Nelson described one of the dogs’ state of shock, telling KRTV that “when she was in the water, I can see her starting to shut down… and I thought, I hope she doesn’t go under.”

The responders did not suffer any injuries or signs of hypothermia during the rescue. The dogs, however, did show signs and needed immediate care after the recovery.

First Responders Found Dogs Right Away

Jones told the website that the rescuers found an ice shelf about 15 feet into the river. One dog tried to get on the shelf but had no luck because its hind legs could not get solid footing. The other dog struggled to stay above water and was about 30 feet from the shoreline.

The battalion chief said, “the dog kept resurfacing, but you could tell it was starting to succumb to the temperatures.”

The “exhausted” animals could barely walk when they got out of the water.

Great Falls Emergency Services EMT Emily Boor told KRTV that the water dripping off the dogs almost immediately turned “into icicles.”

Boor said the animal rescue kennels did not have heat, so they put the animals in the heated ambulance.

American Kennel Club officials say dogs whose core body temperature drops below 99 degrees Fahrenheit can fall victim to mild hypothermia. That can result in dangerous continues for the canine with cardiac and respiratory failure, brain damage, coma, or even death. 

Insulation and blankets can stem mild hypothermia. However, the more severe the hypothermia, the more treatment the dog will need. That could mean invasive core warming, like warm IV fluids.

Happy Ending For ‘Exhausted’ Dogs

Officials took the animals to the Great Falls Animal Shelter. Jones told Newsweek that emergency calls often come about animals falling through the ice than people.

Animal Control said the dogs came from the same owner and spoke with that owner. Animal Control Officer Alisa Ethridge issued the owner a citation after the incident. Next, the owner has to go through civil court before the dogs can return home. 

Great Falls Animal Shelter officials continue to monitor the animals. On Wednesday, Ethridge said the dogs’ temperature and behavior were back to normal.

“Their temperament was actually very good,” Ethridge said. “They went straight to the humans.”