© Andrew Wagstaff - The Citizen-Record
Parrsboro firefighters (from left) David Young, James Shaw and Alex Matthews rescued five-year-old white shepherd Maya from the icy river behind her family home on Dec. 27.
PARRSBORO - The local fire department was called to rescue a family pet this week, but it was a little more serious than a cat stuck in a tree.
Maya, a five-year-old white shepherd belonging to Angie and Shane Willigar, fell through ice on the Farrell River behind their home on the morning of Dec. 27, and was swimming helplessly between the broken ice patches when one of her owners spotted her out the window.
"She was just treading water and trying to get up on the ice," she said. "She still had quite a lot of energy at that point."
After calling her did not give her enough extra inspiration to climb out, they decided to keep her calm. Mr. Willigar stayed beside the river's edge near her while Mrs. Willigar went to the house to call for help. She called family members, and then called 911. She said she hesitated, not certain whether it was appropriate to call 911 for a dog.
"After the fact, I realized that, if I hadn't called (the fire department) then one of my family members would have tried to go in after her, and someone would have got hurt or frozen," said Mrs. Willigar.
So, she called 911, and the fire department was on the scene within minutes. Trained in cold water rescue, they showed up already wearing their rescue suits, and had the dog out of the water quickly.
David Young, who had wisely brought the cold water rescue suits inside from the department's shed about a week before, said he didn't consider the call unusual.
"It's typical. You go get your gear on, and get instructions when you get there," he said. "I knew it was a rescue and I knew it was a dog. I said, ‘Do we rescue dogs?' Somebody said, ‘We do now.'"
Both Young and Alex Matthews became submerged in the water with the dog to get her out. Matthews managed to get her on his knee, which gave her enough elevation to spring out onto the solid ice and to safety. She immediately shook herself off, and started barking at all of the strangers in her yard.
It was a little different than rescuing a person, according to Matthews.
"It's a different dynamic with a person," he said. "A person can understand commands, and can help you help them. A dog is more or less scared of you and scared of what's going on, and doesn't really understand it."
Mrs. Willigar said she was impressed with the response of the fire department, and how professionally they handled the situation. Their cool conduct upon arrival helped ease her mind considerably.
"We let them do their job and were so impressed with how prepared and confident they were," she said. "We felt relieved as soon as they got here. We knew they would save our pet, and we can't thank them enough."