Abbie the dogThis is Abbie.  She is the only living thing I’ve ever risked my life for.

In January, 2010, the family and I were walking Abbie along a path near Wichita’s Exploration Place (not far from where this picture was taken).  The Arkansas (that’s “Ar-Kan-Sas” not “Ar-Kan-Saw”) River flows right through the museum’s back yard.  It was a rather cold January, so the river was frozen about fifty feet out on either side, the river flowing unobstructed otherwise.

Along the sheet of ice sat hundreds of geese.  Abbie loves to chase geese.  I convinced my wife that it would be okay if Abbie ran out onto the ice to chase the geese. I figured she would run out along the ice, scare away the geese, probably fall in, then get out and she’d go home wet and cold – but she’d be okay.

Sadly, she only did most of this.

After scaring off the geese, Abbie jumped off the edge of the ice and into the water.  She then swam back to the edge, put her two front paws up on the ice…and just stopped…

We all rushed down to the shore and spent a few minutes trying to coerce her to pull herself up on the ice. “Come on, Abbie! You can do it!” We threw sticks to her in hopes she would try to get them. But, our efforts were futile…she simply wouldn’t budge.

I handed my phone and keys to my wife and made my way slowly out onto the ice.  I knew there was no way I could make it all the way to her, but I thought perhaps getting a little closer would help motivate her to move.

I made it about halfway to her as the ice crackled underneath my feet.  I looked down and saw a line where the current rolled underneath the shelf of ice.

Committed to going no further, I knelt and called to Abbie…who was still just sitting there staring at me.

After a few moments of this, it became apparent that what we were doing simply wasn’t going to work. At that point…Abbie started to panic.  She started howling and flailing her paws around.

All I remember about my thought process at this point was, “Well, time to go get this dog.”

The next thing I knew – I was taking that next step along the ice.  The ice gave way, sending me straight down into the freezing water.  The current underneath swept away one of my sandals (yes…I wear sandals…all the time…it’s the only advice I take from “What Would Jesus Do?”) and I found myself barefoot on the rocks with freezing water up to my chest.

Starting at this point, I can only assign logic in retrospect.  I don’t remember anything about what was going through my mind.  I know that I jumped backwards first using my elbow, wrist and back to break through the ice behind me.  I jumped up and sat on the ice to make sure it could support my weight…then slid back in the water.

I broke through around ten feet of ice to get to Abbie.  I shoved her up on the ice two or three times before it finally supported her weight.  As she ran back to get hugs from my wife and girls, I heard clapping from the crowd that had formed along the walkway nearby.   I pulled myself up on the ice and ambled back to dry land.

While most of the crowd went about their business, a boy who couldn’t have been more than 16 years old made his way down to the shore.  He was your typical emo fare…bangs that covered the side of his face, baggy black clothes, lots of bracelets and clutching a skateboard.

He said it was one of the coolest things he’d ever seen.  He went on to say that he’d called his friend who was on his way with a ladder to help.  He asked if I needed anything…

I was so cold, I could barely talk.  I remember muttering that I just needed a blanket or a towel…but I was okay and just wanted to get home.

Soaking wet, I made my way back to the car with the family and Abbie. Looking down, I noticed my arm was bleeding from my elbow all the way down to my hand.  I didn’t care…because I couldn’t feel it.

For all that she’d been through – Abbie was none the worse for wear.  After a warm shower and a few bandages…I was on the road to recovery as well.  It was at least a day or two before all the feeling came back to my hand…and the cuts went away after a week or so.

I don’t feel that I did anything extraordinary.  In fact, I think that 99% of the pet owners out there would have done the same thing. I would love to hear from others who’ve been confronted by seemingly harrowing positions and found themselves acting beyond their own expectations. Leave your stories below.