‘Don’t try to be a hero during the cold weather’ – that’s the advice of 44-year-old Dani Michaels, who dialled 999 after her friend Jenny entered a frozen lake in Ashford, in an attempt to save their dogs.
The friends were out walking their Labrador and Alsatian-cross this morning when the excitable dogs ventured onto a lake that had iced over, known locally as ‘the moat’, behind Tool Station in Hall Avenue, Ashford.
In a matter of seconds, the weight of the dogs caused the ice to break, plunging them into the freezing water. The friends desperately searched for a way to reach them, but suddenly Jenny decided to get into the water.
Dani, from Willesborough, said: “I was on the other side of the lake looking for a way to get closer to the dogs, and then I saw Jenny get in – I was so shocked and started shouting.
“Her emotions and love for the dogs just took over, but it was not the right thing to do.
“I dialled 999 as soon as I spotted her in the water. A passer-by helped me to direct emergency services to the lake from the road – and for that I am very thankful.”
Fortunately, Jenny and the dogs managed to scramble out of the frozen lake without assistance before rescue services arrived, and she was looked after by paramedics from SECAmb. But not everyone is as lucky, and on average there are around 50 drowning tragedies each year in the UK.
Dani said: “My advice to anyone who finds themselves in this sort of situation is, don’t try to be a hero and end up putting yourself at risk – call the emergency services. Dogs are much more likely to get out of the water unharmed than we are.”
Following this near miss, Kent Fire and Rescue Service is urging people to be careful around water, and especially frozen lakes in the current weather conditions.
Group Manager for Community Safety at KFRS, Leanne McMahon said: “Dani’s words are spot on, please don’t try to be a hero in this weather, please always call 999. If you’re getting into unknown waters, especially if the water has turned to ice, it’s hard to see the hidden dangers and sometimes it’s not as safe as you might think.”
Leanne added: “The water is often deeper than it looks and when it’s very cold like it is presently, this can quickly cause cramp and breathing difficulties known as cold water shock, which can lead to tragic circumstances. Many rivers and lakes can also contain hidden rubbish and debris such as shopping trolleys and broken glass which can cause injuries, and often the water can be polluted which can affect your health.”
In today’s incident, Jenny entered the water to try to save the dogs, but that’s not advisable. Here are some top tips when it comes to dogs and water:
- Never enter the water to try and save a dog – dogs are usually much stronger swimmers than we are, and often a dog will manage to find its way out of water on its own.
- Avoid throwing sticks or balls near water for dogs – they will go after it if they think you want it back even if you’ve thrown it too far or into dangerous water.
- Even dogs that like swimming can usually only swim for short bursts – keep an eye of your dog and don’t let it enter the water if it’s older or tired.
- If your dog loves the water make sure you have control and keep it on a lead to prevent it jumping into hazardous or unsafe areas.
- Remember the wet riverbanks, steep edges or jagged rocks can make it hard for a dog to get out of water, and it can be a slip risk for owners.
- Don’t lean into water and try and lift your dog out – you could topple in.
- If your dog has struggled in the water it may have inhaled water and should see a vet, as dogs can drown after the event if water has entered the lungs.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service 28 February 2018