Man and dog rescue 2 girls from icy Edmonton river

Adam Shaw and his dog Rocky are recognized by the Edmonton Fire Department for saving two young girls from drowning in the North Saskatchewan River. (James Hees/CBC )

A man and his dog were honoured Monday for saving two girls who fell into the icy North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton Sunday afternoon.

Adam Shaw was on a family walk with his wife, their two young children and their dog when they heard screaming under the Rundle Park footbridge at about 4:30 p.m. MT.

"I looked down to see one young girl floating in the river and her sister trying to pull her out," he told reporters at an Edmonton fire hall Monday.

While his wife called 911, he ran down to the river with Rocky, an eight-year-old husky-Labrador-retriever mix.

By the time he arrived, the second girl had fallen in, struggling to hold on to the edge of the ice, he said.

He grabbed her and pulled her out, but the first girl had started to float down the river.

"She was bobbing in and out and we could barely see her, so we just started running down the ice trying to get close to her," Shaw said.

"I said, 'Can you swim toward the ice?'" he said. "She said she couldn't move her arms, couldn't move her legs."

He tried throwing Rocky's leash out to her but couldn't reach her.

He tried getting closer but crashed through the fragile ice, sliding into the frigid water along with his dog.

Thrashing in the water, Rocky managed to get his legs up on firmer ice with Shaw pushing the dog from behind. Using Rocky's leash, he pulled himself onto the ice.

"I thought, now I'm in some big trouble here. I was scared for myself. I thought, 'OK I should really be careful here so I don't end up being a victim here too.'"

In the meantime, the girl had disappeared.

"She finally popped back up another 50 to 60 [metres] down," Shaw said.

He raced towards her, but again the girl was too far out to reach the dog's leash. At that point he knew he had to get the dog into the river.

Rocky jumped in and finally the girl could grab onto the leash.

"I called him back and he swam towards the ice and breaking the ice as he was getting closer trying to get up," he said. "I managed to grab him and grab the girl's arm and pull them both up onto the ice."

He held the girl who was hypothermic and scared, the fire-rescue team raced up the river in a boat moments later, he said.

The girls were taken to the University of Alberta Hospital, where they are reported to be in stable condition.

Shaw said he wasn't surprised Rocky jumped into the river.

"He's a terrific dog. He's very adventurous, always in and out of the water."