Howard Bishop watched helplessly Thursday afternoon as his best friend ‘Bud’ fought to keep his head above the icy waters of the St. Mary’s River.
The dog was struggling and a group of bald eagles had begun to circle overhead.
“They figured he was a goner,” said Bishop, 78.
But then, Bishop said he heard the sound of an airboat coming from upstream.
It was a crew of firefighters from the Sault Ste. Marie Fire Service, who pulled up to the spot where Bud had fallen through the ice and plucked the tired Golden retriever from the water.
“I thought ‘Just hang on Bud. Just hang on Bud,’” said Bishop.
Bud, who is 10 years old, was recovering well this afternoon thanks, said Bishop, to the efforts of not only the firefighters, but also thanks to the actions of a pair of construction workers at the scene and the veterinary staff at Sault Animal Hospital.
Bishop said the harrowing experience began Thursday afternoon when he and his wife, Karen, decided to take Bud for a walk along the river.
The couple, who live nearby, had wanted to check the progress of an apartment project at the former Plummer Memorial Hospital site, where Karen had stayed while she studied to be a nurse in the 1950s.
Howard said he had planned to let Bud off his leash for just a moment.
“Low and behold he spotted a duck,” said Howard.
The dog chased the bird for a couple hundred feet out onto the ice before he hit a weak spot and fell through.
The couple were “just devastated.”
“(Bud) is such a beautiful dog and such a good friend,” Howard said.
Karen called to a pair of men who were working at the former hospital site and one of them called the fire department on his cellphone.
Howard said it was hard not to venture out onto the ice after Bud, but he said he knew that would be a bad idea.
“The dog had already been in the water half and hour or more at this point, fighting to stay alive,” he said.
Howard said Bud was able to cling to the ice using his toenails - which he was to have had trimmed at a grooming appointment this morning.
“Had he not had those big nails, he wouldn’t have made it,” said Howard.
The Bishops have had Bud, whose name is short for Budweiser, for about eight years since he was passed on to them by their granddaughter when she moved out west.
Karen said her husband and Bud are very close and the fact that the dog survived Thursday’s ordeal is “almost a miracle.”
The firefighters took Bud to the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre after bringing him onboard their boat.
From there, the Bishops took him to the vet, where he was given a warming IV.
Two hours later, he was doing well, said Howard.
“I took him up (today) and all the girls were hugging him,” said Howard.
Howard said he brought a box of doughnuts to the fire hall today when he went to return the blankets the firefighters used to keep Bud warm.
“I said, ‘You didn’t just save a dog. You saved two old people too,” said Howard.