by Travis Mateer
I’m writing up this PSA after jumping into the Clark Fork River yesterday to save my dog. Maybe my experience can help someone else NOT be an idiot like I was.
The fluctuation of temperatures recently–including arctic blasts dropping the thermostat to single digits–has created some dangerous, unstable ice around rivers in Missoula. Even though I am VERY familiar with the area I was walking my dog (Tower Road), the ice-blockage has backed up side-channels, making them deeper than they usually are this time of year.
I was near the end of my walk when my Newfoundland, who is a strong swimmer and LOVES the water, broke through the ice. I watched for a few seconds as she swam in the thin strip of exposed, moving water, going back and forth between river banks trying to find a spot to climb out, but she couldn’t make it out.
With the current moving her toward deeper, more dangerous water, I didn’t have much time to act. I went out on the ice and leapt into the open water. It was only waist deep on me, so I was able to stand in the frigid current and hoist up my 100 pound dog to safety.
After exiting the water, I quickly squished myself back to my vehicle, shaking a bit at the thought of what might have happened if I hadn’t acted quickly.
So, let this be a lesson to you Montana dog-walkers out there. You may know the river well, and have gone to your favorite spots HUNDREDS of time, but conditions change all the time around wild water, so don’t be an idiot and let your big dog get too close to the water’s edge.
Thanks for reading.