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Bennington

Man rescues dog from a canal

Resident questions safety around Monadnock Paper Mills’ waterways

  • Michael Boyd and his dog "Gus" found themselves in a precarious situation at the Monadnock Paper Mills in late June.
  • Michael Boyd and his dog "Gus" found themselves in a precarious situation at the Monadnock Paper Mills in late June.
  • Michael Boyd and his dog "Gus" found themselves in a precarious situation at the Monadnock Paper Mills in late June.
  • Michael Boyd and his dog "Gus" found themselves in a precarious situation at the Monadnock Paper Mills in late June.
  • Michael Boyd and his dog "Gus" found themselves in a precarious situation at the Monadnock Paper Mills in late June.
  • Michael Boyd and his dog "Gus" found themselves in a precarious situation at the Monadnock Paper Mills in late June.
  • Michael Boyd and his dog "Gus" found themselves in a precarious situation at the Monadnock Paper Mills in late June.

BENNINGTON — A Bennington man is seeking safety measures around the canal feeding the Monadnock Paper Mills’ aqueduct, after a walk with his wife and dogs in the area of the mill turned into a potentially dangerous situation.

Michael Boyd of Bible Hill Road was walking with his three dogs and wife, Letitia, on the afternoon of June 28, when one of his dogs, Gus, fell into the canal to the right side of Antrim Road. Fearing Gus would be sucked into the mill’s aqueduct, Boyd was jumped into the canal. “I wanted to take our three dogs for a walk and go for a swim in the river on the opposite side of the trestle,” said Boyd in a recent interview.

Boyd, Letitia, and the dogs walked from their home on Bible Hill Road to Starrett Road, and then walked in the woods, in the direction of the paper mill, on a path, leading them to the rail road trestle that goes over the paper mill’s canal, according to Boyd.

“We wanted to walk across the trestle, but we arrived only to find it was gated by the N.H. Trail Association. Disappointed that we now needed to go the long way round, my wife called to the dogs only to find [our dog] Gus missing,” recalled Boyd, who noted he had let his dogs off their leashes while walking in the forest.

Realizing Gus was gone, Boyd began to franticly search the area in and surrounding the forest. Boyd arrived at the Monadnock Paper Mills trestle to find his dog floating backward with the current of the Contoocook River. “I dove in, figuring that as a good river swimmer, I could rescue him,” said Boyd during a recent interview.

When Boyd reached Gus, he grabbed hold of the dog’s harness to bring him over to the side of the canal and pull him out of the water. “It quickly became apparent that the current was unmanageable for any rescue to be made,” said Boyd.

Boyd said he was able to catch a branch of juniper, halting their journey down the river. “Now I had the juniper in one hand and the dog in my other, with my legs being sucked down stream. The next thing I heard was a voice yelling ‘Let go, let go!,’” recalled Boyd, who looked down stream to see a man holding a long pole for him to grab onto.

“After reaching the pole, I was able to retrieve Gus and wait for the aqueduct to be closed down,” said Boyd, adding that if he had been hurt “somebody would be getting sued.”

According to Bennington Police Chief Steve Campbell, Bennington Fire and Rescue crews responded to the scene, but Boyd had been pulled out of the water prior to their arrival. Emergency responders assessed Boyd and Gus, and no injuries were reported.

Joe Fletcher, vice president of Human Resources at the mill, weighed in on the event during a recent interview. “We have a watchman and boiler operator on the weekends. He was doing his rounds and heard what turned out to be a dog wimpering. He looked downstream and saw a dog paddling in the canal. When the boiler operator saw the dog owner jump into the canal himself, he pulled the fire alarms,” said Fletcher.

The alarms triggered emergency responders to the scene. “It’s fortunate that our guy was doing his rounds at the time. Everything went as well as it could have,” said Fletcher.

As for what the company plans to do to prevent future incidents, Fletcher acknowledged changes are being considered, while some have been made. “Since the event, we have put a life ring near the canal, and our safety manager is taking a look at what else can be done.”

The paper mill has “Dangerous, No Trespassing” signs every 25 feet along the wall of the canal, which is located on the right hand side of Antrim Road. The mill uses the water current from the Contoocook River to power some of the mill’s production. “We are looking at whether we should provide some additional barriers around the canal,” said Fletcher.

While the mill figures out what additional safety precautions, if any, to take following the event, Boyd is adamant that something must be done.

“A 3-foot wall with no trespassing signs is not going to get it done. At the very least some floating ropes need to be put in like they have at dams, so that people can grab onto them. The whole area [around the canal] should be fenced in so that people cannot reach the water.”

Attempts to reach the paper mill’s safety manager by press time were not successful.

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