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Greenfield man saves dog from river

HANCOCK — Dean Woodrum, 31, of Greenfield decided to take the day Sunday to go on a snowmobiling outing with a friend. He had no idea that before the end of the day, he would be saving a life.

Woodrum and a friend, Jack Schnurr of Greenfield, headed out at about 8 a.m. on Sunday morning for a day of riding on the local trails. But when they crossed into Hancock, they spotted a woman on cross-country skis who was frantically trying to flag them down. Her Golden Retriever, Ripley, had been exploring the trails alongside her. When he made his way onto the ice of the partially-frozen Contoocook River, he fell into the icy water.

A thin layer of ice extended from the shore several feet, and the center was made up of chunks of ice moving with the current. The ice on the edge wasn’t very thick — enough to temporarily support the dog, but too thin to allow a person to walk across, according to Woodrum.

“If I stepped on it, it would break,” said Woodrum in a phone interview Monday. “The dog was hanging on the edge of the ice. He was struggling, barely hanging on with his front paws. It was obvious that he’d been there awhile.”

The dog’s owner had already contacted the local fire department, but Woodrum said it was pretty clear that the dog wouldn’t be able to hold on long enough for more help to arrive. Schnurr had a hand-held hatchet among his snowmobiling supplies, and Woodrum used it to cut down a maple sapling long enough to reach the dog.

As he held it within the animal’s reach, Ripley latched onto the offered stick, Woodrum said.

“As soon as I reached out, he knew what I was trying to do,” Woodrum said. “He grabbed it in his mouth, and tugged at it so I knew he had a good grip. He was a smart dog. As soon as I put out the tree, he knew what he had to do.”

Woodrun pulled on the stick, slow and steady, and the dog was able to use the leverage to scramble up from the water and back onto the ice. From there, the cold, shivering dog was able to make his way back onto the shore and to safety. And he was apparently no worse for the wear for his misadventure, and knew just who to thank for his rescue.

“It wasn’t even five or 10 minutes later he was bouncing around like a jumping bean,” Woodrum said. “Running up to me and jumping on me. He was real happy to see me.”

He just did what anyone in his position would do, Woodrum said. Whether it was a person or an animal, there was no way he was simply going to stand by and let them be carried off by the river or watch them go under the ice, he said.

And as for the woman whose dog he saved, Woodrum said he didn’t even get the grateful woman’s name. She was in the area from Massachusetts to ski local trails, and thanked the local men profusely for their assistance, he said.

“She just said, ‘You guys are my angels. You saved my dog. Thank you,’ ” he said. “But what else was I going to do? I knew it would be tough for the emergency team to get there in time, and I had to do something.”

The Hancock Fire Department responded, but the dog had already been extricated, said Woodrum. The firefighter who responded recommended the woman have the dog checked out for lasting effects of his dip in the water.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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