PARRSBORO – He has yet to rescue a cat from a tree, but firefighter James Shaw has twice now helped rescue dogs from icy water.
Shaw was one of several Parrsboro firefighters responding to the call on the afternoon of March 16. Pooh Bear, a 13-year-old golden retriever belonging to Josh McCulley, had climbed onto an ice cake in the river near the bridge on Two Islands Road, where it then became trapped by the rising tide.
Many witnesses spotted the dog on the ice, and patrons of the nearby Porchlight Restaurant placed the 911 call at 2:20 p.m.
Several fighters responded, and three used the department’s rescue boat to safely pluck the dog from the ice.
“The challenges were finding out how much higher the tide was going to come in, and whereabouts that land was,” explained Shaw, who rescued the dog while Aubrey Fenton operated the boat and Kevin Hill stabilized it.
“Everything went textbook,” said fire chief Randy Mosher. “We had all the gear we needed on scene in less than 15 minutes. We couldn’t ask for it to go any smoother.”
The fire department responded to a similar situation on Dec. 27, 2011, when a dog was trapped in the same river, but further up. In that case, the dog was submerged in the water, requiring firefighters to jump in from shore and help it out of the water.
This time, the firefighters had to launch their zodiac by hand, and cross the water to get to the dog, which apparently was happy to see them.
“The dog never put up any kind of struggle,” said Mosher. “It got right in the boat when James grabbed her.”
As soon as the boat returned to shore, and the dog’s paws hit the ground, a hearty round of applause came from the crowd of onlookers that had amassed.
While the dog appeared OK after the rescue, it was clearly better off thanks to those who called 911 when they did.
“The tide was still rising when we got the call, and it probably would have been two hours before it went back down far enough for the dog, if it still had enough strength, to walk home,” said Mosher. “But it was pretty icy, and the dog itself was pretty icy.”
While it’s nice to be able to rescue a family pet, these calls are also good training opportunities for rescuing humans in similar situations, although not quite the same thing, according to Shaw.
“You can talk to people to try and calm them down,” he said. “You have to be more cautious when you approach a dog because you never know what action they might take, unlike a human who is able to work with you.”
Interestingly enough, these dog rescues have also become recruiting opportunities for the fire department.
Kevin Hill was one of the firefighters on the boat who rescued the dog on Sunday. It was his sister’s dog that was rescued in 2011, and he joined the department soon afterward. Now, Pooh Bear’s owner has taken out an application to join the department.