'Adrenaline takes over': German Shepherd rescued after falling through High Park pond

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'Adrenaline takes over': German Shepherd rescued after falling through High Park pond

A Toronto police officer managed to save a German Shepherd that fell through the ice at Grenadier Pond Saturday—but not before he and a firefighter also fell into the water.

The dog, named Whistler, ran onto the pond in High Park Saturday afternoon and fell through the thin ice.

By the time police arrived, Whistler's owner had crawled after the dog and was already six metres out, said Const. Matthew Abramovitz. They managed to get the owner safely back, although he fell in close to the shore.

By this time Whistler had been in the water for about 10 minutes and looked tired, Abromovitz said. The dog was struggling to claw itself out, and at one point it looked like he stopped swimming.

"He stopped paddling at one point," he said.

"I believed that his head was going to go under the water and we were going to lose him."

'Adrenaline takes over'

At that point, police decided they had to act.

"I think your feelings take over, your adrenaline takes over and you just want to rescue he dog," said Abromovitz.

After tying himself to officers on the shore, Abromovitz made his way out onto the ice. The plan was to try to hook the dog's collar with a curved, metal life-saving pole.

But when Abromovitz was within five metres of the dog, he fell through the ice as well.

"Your body's frozen almost instantaneously," Abromovitz said.

"If it wasn't for those life-protection devices I had on me, I don't know if I would have been able to swim to keep my head above water."

A firefighter went out on the ice to rescue Abromovitz, but he fell into the pond too.

The dog had a "fight or flight" response, however, and Abromovitz said he bit onto the metal pole. Officers on the shore were able to pull them both back in safely.

The firefighter, the dog owner and Abromovitz were taken to hospital and checked for hypothermia. 

Although it was a cold experience, Abramovitz said he'd do it all over again.

"The adrenaline's worn off so all your emotions come to the forefront, but I'm just happy that the dog was saved," he said.

"I'm an animal lover and it tears at your heart to see anybody, and an animal especially, in distress."

Keep dogs on leashes

Cpt. Michael Westwood with Toronto Fire said it's crucial for people to keep dogs on leashes and stay away from shorelines.

If your animal does fall through the ice, don't go after it, he said.

"You need to have the proper equipment," he said, noting that there's a specific rescue squad to deal with these incidents.

"Even if we go through a deep freeze, we don't recommend people go out on ice at all," said Westwood.

"No ice is safe ice unless it's on a rink. We never recommend people go out on natural ice."

Skating has been permitted at Grenadier Pond since 2015, however, this year's skating season closed on Feb. 26th this year and there are signs warning people to stay off the ice.