It only takes one wrong step near a body of water in the winter for disaster to strike. Pepper the dog and his mom found that out the hard way.
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The two of them were taking a morning walk in Chicago along Lake Michigan when Pepper, a 7-year-old Alaskan klee kai, got off his leash, slipped on some slick rocks, and plunged onto the ice sheets of the lake. As Pepper tried to clamber back up to his human, the ice around him cracked, and he began floating away!
Given how frigid the lake was, it was imperative that Pepper be rescued as soon as possible. As Fire Deputy District Chief Jason Lach said, hypothermia can strike “within a matter of minutes.” Thankfully, firefighters were already nearby practicing underwater ice dives.
Just 10 minutes later, 40 rescuers arrived, complete with a police squad, fire department vehicles, two ambulances, and a helicopter. By the time the officials in the helicopter spotted Pepper, he and his ice float were 500 feet out into the lake.
Pepper’s mom was understandably distressed, but Jason said Pepper was “very scared but friendly.”
Firefighter Chris Iverson dove into the water with a thermal suit on and swam out to Pepper. Chris calmed the dog down and secured him in a safety sling, where the poor pup cuddled up to his rescuer.
Meanwhile, firefighter Emerson Branch swam out with a rapid deployment craft, which he and Chris used to secure Pepper and bring him safely to shore.
The complex rescue only took about 15 minutes. When the firefighters reached dry land with Pepper, they swaddled him in a blanket and played pass-the-pup to get him back to his human. At that point, Pepper was so soaked he “looked like more fur than dog,” according to Jason.
Caretakers at Veterinary Emergency Group Hospital made sure Pepper was OK, which thankfully he was. But Jason hopes his rescue will be a lesson for others.
“The dog was good, warmed up to its owner, and went on its merry way,” Jason said. “But stay off the ice. It’s never safe. … Step into a hole, and you’re out of sight.”
Thank goodness the rescue crew got there in time! We’re so glad Pepper is safe and sound. Don’t forget to share this story to warn others about the dangers of ice!
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