The second annual Smokey-toys-with-death event*.

Let me preface this by saying that it is an accepted fact that the thing we dislike about someone is the opposite face of the thing we love about them. Case in point:  Smokey is tender-hearted about animals and has unshakeable faith in his own ability to handle things, amen.

It all started when he was replacing the rear-view mirror on his car on Sunday. It was a lovely day, sunny and 60˚ F (16˚ C), so he decided to let the dogs go for a runaround. They were having a wonderful time, racing up and down the driveway and around the house…

… and down to the lake. Where the ice is in the process of going out. Lucy The Incredibly Intrepid But Not Terribly Smart Dog  decided to dive into the lake to chase the Canada geese.

And then all this happened.


3 w notes






I took all the above photos because I just knew I could get a blog post out of it. Then…

…things got hairy. You can see in the last photo above that the kayak is almost completely off the ice and in the water. As Smokey wrestled with Lucy to get her into the boat, the kayak flipped and he went in, too.

As is nearly always the case when a person — or a dog — goes through the ice, he couldn't pull himself out. He couldn't get a handhold, the ice edge kept breaking, and he just wasn't strong enough.

I ran into the house to get a rope. (Why had he not taken one end of a rope with him? Duh.) Happily, we had just bought two 100-foot ropes, still in the wrapping. Tragically, I am not a good enough pitcher to throw one end to him from shore. (Why did I not call 911 when I ran past the telephone in the house? Duh #2.)

Thinking back on it later, I remembered that when he was going out on the ice I had said, "Don't fall in because I am NOT coming out there after you."

Lesson: never say never.

There was the hull of a Sunfish-type sailboat on the bank, which had been given to us years ago and that the boys used to sail around the lake. I was able to drag that shallow hull down to the ice, heaving and grunting and panting, and push it out to where Smokey was hanging on to the kayak.

I had the rope along and he wrapped it around his wrists so at least he wouldn't sink. (Why had I not tied one end to a tree? Duh #3.) He still was not able to pull himself high enough to get into the boat, even with me pulling as well. In the process we managed to slide the sailboat hull into the water and ship several gallons of ice water into it. I quickly scrambled to the other end of the hull to keep it from flipping, too.

Now, this is reminiscent of a situation I heard about on NPR a number of years ago. A Norwegian sport fisherman was fishing from the shore ice when a large piece, on which he was standing, broke loose and floated out to sea. No worries, though; he just pulled out his cell phone and dialed the Norwegian equivalent of 911.

I had my own cell phone in my pocket because I had been taking the photos above. It fell into the water in the bottom of the sailboat when we were attempting to get Smokey in, but I quickly grabbed it and put it back into my shirt pocket. When I took it out to call 911 (Why did I not call 911 when I ran into the house to get the rope? Never thought of it until just this second.) The phone still worked, but I had no service. Rats! I can generally get one bar of service at home; not good enough to reliably make a call, but still. 

I sat there and contemplated in how many ways we were screwed. Smokey hung in the 32˚ water and contemplated the same. There are almost no other year-round residents on the lake, and none of them would have had a very clear view of us even if they were looking. No help there. No way to get either boat back onto the ice. No way to get Smokey out of the water. No way for me to get back to shore.

I tried my phone again, and hallelujah! One bar of service! I got through to 911, and the operator was able to hear me well enough even though the call was breaking up to understand our predicament. A minute later we could hear the fire siren in town, four miles away, summoning the volunteer fire fighters.

The fireman on the scene was a guy who lives on the paved road a half mile away. The second one lives about a mile farther away in the other direction.

Because I am nothing if not nuts, I recorded the rescue for posterity. My photography sucks, but oh, well. At least we are both still alive and so is Lucy.

Hover for the play-by-play.

I had called 911 by this point. The ice Smokey was lying on had broken free from the shore ice, but it kept him bouyant and largely out of the water. He eventually managed to get both feet up onto the gunnel of the boat, which also helped.

The first volunteer fireman on the scene. I did manage to throw one end of the rope close to him. He was not able to pull Smokey out of the water by himself, though.

Two more volunteer fireman showed up. With the three of them pulling, they got Smokey onto solid ice.

Yes, that is Lucy TIIBNVSD in the background. She had managed to get herself out of the water when the weight of the kayak submerged part of the ice she was scrabbling on, and she could claw her way up it like a ramp.

EMT and fireman take Smoke back into the house so he can get into dry clothes.


Thus endeth the saga. It took a couple hours under the covers and with help from a hair dryer for Smokey and Lucy to warm up completely. All's well that ends well, but let's not do it again.

Addendum: On Tuesday night I got together with some friends for our occasional monthly book group. As I told them about our adventure, suddenly one of my friends gasped and said, I heard about this! I heard about how someone had gone through the ice on Antler Lake! Such is small town life. Everyone knows about your follies.


 * It was on March 3 last year that Smokey coded in the OR and was dead for eight minutes.

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0 Responses to The second annual Smokey-toys-with-death event*.

  1. Carole says:

    Oh my gosh, what a story! I’m so glad and relieved you had a happy ending and hopefully you can laugh about it at some point!

  2. Bonny says:

    I am so glad that this story ended happily, as it truly could have been different without the new ropes, NPR listening, volunteer fire fighters, and the cell phone gods granting one bar. I do love your labeled, before and after 911 record of the event, but sincerely hope that there will not be a third annual repeat of this nerve-wracking event. Did the darn rear view mirror that started it all get replaced?!

  3. Chris says:

    YIKES!!! I am SO GLAD to hear that everyone is ok now. How terrifying – and yeah, so easy to see the “duh” moments later, but not so much as you are reacting.

  4. claire says:

    oh forevermore! I am grateful for both the happy ending, and the beautifully photographed and written evidence.

  5. Mary Jo says:

    What a day! Take a day and go celebrate your life together. Before you know it, it will be March again and Smokey will try something new.

  6. kim in oregon says:

    Oh my goodness what a story! Please don’t beat yourself up for your amazing hindsight on what to do differently in the future. I’m so glad everything is OK.

  7. gayle says:

    Do you think confining Smokey to the living room for the month of May every year might prevent future hair-raising adventures? Give it some thought…
    Sooooo glad you’re both okay!

  8. gayle says:

    Oops! I mean March.

  9. sparrowgrass says:

    I am shivering just thinking about it.

  10. Mary Lou says:

    Glad it ended well. Of course the rescue dude had a Packers shirt on.

  11. k says:

    Aren’t you lucky that you didn’t have a camera! Cold water is cold! Glad you both survived! How did they get you out?

  12. kathy b says:

    oh my gosh I nearly lost hope. I hope you gave those fireman your best chocolate chip cookies.
    It happens so quickly. Im so happy you are okay

  13. kathy b says:

    My fireman says you can put your arms on the ice and stay quiet and your arms will freeze to the ice until help arrives so you aren’t thrashing in the water. Ugh

  14. Kim Dean says:

    Whoo! What is there to say, even?

  15. Helen says:

    March is not his month…or perhaps it is. He is still alive.

  16. Linda says:

    Wow!! So glad everthing turned out for you all, but holy cow…what a story! There certainly is an angel on your’s, Smokey’s and Lucy’s shoulders! Gives another meaning to “can’t wait for Spring!”

  17. Kym says:

    Oh, Kathy. I am so very glad that things ended up well — but I’m so sorry that you all had to go through such a traumatic experience. Melting ice on the lake always makes me a nervous wreck, with the dogs and the intrepid-but-not-so-smart men, etc. Sending XOXOXO.

  18. Soxanne says:

    Oh. Dear. God. I. Can.not.even. Read.the. Details.

  19. Big Alice says:

    HOLY CRAP. I am so glad you are all OK after that.

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