Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007

After dog falls through ice, a bone-chilling rescue

Team of firefighters, police, vets brings Rocket-Man ‘back to life’

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Laurie DeWitt⁄The Gazette
Nancy Cabrera-Santos and her husband, Manuel Cabrera-Santos, hug their dog, Rocket-Man, a husky-German shepherd mix that fell through the thin ice of a pond last week and was rescued by police and firefighters. Veterinarians saved the dog’s life.
The owner of a dog that fell into a frozen pond Thursday says she has the community to thank for her pet being alive this holiday season.

Silver Spring resident Nancy Cabrera-Santos was walking her dog, Rocket-Man, around Paint Branch Park on East Randolph Road on Thursday when she took him off his leash to play with another dog.

While Cabrera-Santos wasn’t looking, Rocket-Man, a 1-year-old husky-German shepherd mixed breed that Cabrera-Santos adopted in November, saw a flock of geese walking on the nearby frozen pond and made a run at them.

In the next instant, Cabrera-Santos said, Rocket-Man leaped at the geese, and when he landed, he broke through the ice.

Rocket-Man was 20 to 30 feet from the shore, treading freezing water and unable to pull himself back up on the ice.

‘‘I was calling out to him and he was trying to struggle free, but the ice was holding him back,” she said.

A woman passing by on a bike path ran and called 9-1-1, Cabrera-Santos said, and firefighters from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service were soon on the scene.

For more than an hour, they tried to break through the ice and create a path for Rocket-Man to swim to shore.

Eventually firefighters were able to do so by using a combination of ladders, ropes and a rock found by Cabrera-Santos. Once Rocket-Man was able to swim to shore, Park Police took him to Fairland Animal Hospital on Old Columbia Pike.

Rocket-Man was suffering from hypothermia when he was brought in around 10:30 a.m. His body temperature was 90.7 degrees; a normal temperature is around 101 degrees, said Dr. Karen Blanchard, who led the four-person team that treated Rocket-Man.

‘‘He was shivering but in shock,” Blanchard said, adding that his shivering was a good sign, since it meant his body was trying to warm itself.

The veterinarians pumped warm fluids intravenously into Rocket-Man, gave him steroids to combat his shock and used heating pads, hot water bottles and a blow dryer in an effort to keep him warm.

Blanchard said the dog was also beat up after struggling in the ice for an hour.

‘‘His front feet were bruised from him trying to climb up and he had a contusion above his eye,” she said.

Once his body temperature started returning to normal, Blanchard said they knew Rocket-Man would pull through.

‘‘It was pretty intense for an hour and a half,” she said. ‘‘He’s a lucky dog.”

Cabrera-Santos, who was waiting anxiously at the hospital, was overjoyed. ‘‘They brought him back to life,” she said.

Dog and owner were sent home around 3 p.m.

Cabrera-Santos said she is thankful for the work of everyone, from the woman who called 9-1-1, to the firefighters who broke through the ice, to the Park Police who brought him to Fairland, to the vets who nursed Rocket-Man back to health.

‘‘Everybody came together,” she said. ‘‘It was like teamwork, and it worked out beautifully. It was a miracle that this dog survived.

‘‘This time of year, to know that there are good people out there, to know that humanity still reigns in the universe — they’re just wonderful human beings.”