March 21, 2017 7:55 pm
Updated: March 21, 2017 10:00 pm

Alberta woman searches for mystery man who saved her dog from frigid waters


An Alberta woman is crediting the heroic efforts of a stranger, after her dog fell through the ice of the Oldman River Friday.

Laura Gardner and her dog ‘Dre’ were visiting Peenaquim Park, an off-leash dog park area that backs onto the body of water.

Gardner says Dre ran down to the river, and in less than a minute, was submerged in the frigid waters.

“It just happened so fast,” Gardner said.

“It happened in the blink of an eye.”

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As Dre tried to lift himself out, the ice began crumbling beneath his weight.

“It just broke out from under him,” Gardner said.

“It was too soft, and he couldn’t pull himself up.”

The Oldman River is about a steep 15-foot-drop from the ground level of the park. Gardner says she stood there feeling helpless, watching Dre try to stay afloat.

“I think my heart just stopped, everything stopped,” Gardner said.

“I froze.”

The gravity of the situation began to sink in.

“If he drops under and doesn’t come up in that same spot, he might not come back up,” Gardner said.

“I was sick to my stomach.”

Gardner scanned the area for a safe place to get down to the river, but that’s when she says, a random bystander jumped into action.

“By the time I looked back, there was a guy in a lime green sweater that has made his way down there, and pulled Dre out by his collar,” Gardner said.

While the six-year-old Husky-Greyhound mix suffered only minor injuries, he was unable to walk back to the parking lot, located a sizable distance away from the river.

Gardner says that’s when the same man who pulled Dre out of the water, returned with a city employee and his work vehicle. Together, they transferred Dre back to the parking lot.

“I shouted out, ‘You are my hero,'” Gardner said.

“He just kinda waved and continued on his way.”

Lethbridge Animal Services officer Skylar Plourde says although this story has a happy ending, it’s a reminder of the dangers with changing ice conditions.

“If you’re at an off-leash area, you still need to make sure you still have ultimate control over it, whether it’s by voice or putting it on that leash when you’re near the water,” Plourde said.

“If the dog slips away and sees something that’s more important than your voice commands, and takes off across the ice and falls through, then it’s going to be a tragedy.”

Plourde says if an animal falls through the ice, to leave the risky rescues to the professionals.

“If the person goes out, then the fire service has to rescue a dog and a person,” Plourde said.

“Call the fire department. They have specially trained people to do that.”

Gardner says it’s a lesson learned for the future, and that next winter when the icy conditions return, Dre will be on a leash.

“We trust our dogs, we trust that they know capabilities, their limits,” Gardner said.

“I’ve had him six years and we’ve never even had a close call, but this is something to learn from.”

Gardner hopes to find the man who helped rescue her best friend from a near-certain death.

“I didn’t get his name. I was too in the moment,” Gardner said.

“But he was incredible.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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