Firefighters Save Dog From Bay

Tense minutes as dive team fought through ice and slush off Noyac
Members of the Sag Harbor Fire Department helped rescue a dog that fell through the ice in Noyac Bay on Saturday. Kevin Duchemin Photos

       A dog almost met its demise after about 45 minutes in the icy waters off Noyac on Saturday afternoon, but thanks to the Sag Harbor Fire Department he lived to bark another day.

       While nearby Sag Harbor Village was bustling with activity during HarborFrost, scores of firefighters, divers, and emergency medical service personnel descended on Noyac Bay. Onlookers, who had gone to the bay to take photos, called 911 after hearing a dog yelping and then spotting it trying to stay afloat about 150 feet or so out, where there was a break in the ice.

       At 3:24 p.m. Sag Harbor firefighters arrived at the beach, off Bay View Drive near Fox Crossing, in the West Banks development — diagonal to Long Beach — with their dive team and rescue squad. The Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps stood by, warming the ambulance for the animal, later identified as Morgan, a 7-year-old golden retriever-shepherd mix that had run off earlier that day.

       The divers, who train in ice rescues and had just had a drill the week before, donned Ice Commander suits to insulate themselves from the freezing temperatures and deployed a 12-foot aluminum boat. They had a tough time getting through the mix of thick and thin parts of the ice, according to First Assistant Chief James Frazier. “It wasn’t hard enough to stand on, and it wasn’t soft enough to paddle through,” he said.

       The crew chief, Rich Simmons, went into the water to help move chunks of ice and make way for the boat.

       “You feel helpless. The dog was crying. It took us about 15 minutes to get to him,” said Mr. Frazier.

       Mr. Simmons, swam for the last 40 feet or so, unable to touch bottom. By that time, Morgan, who had been clinging to the ice by his front paws, had stopped barking. Mr. Simmons grabbed him from behind and handed him over to Scott Fordham and Alex Smith in the boat. Morgan put up no resistance.

       Connected to a tended line, firefighters on shore pulled the boat onto the beach. Rescuers wrapped the soaking wet, terrified dog in blankets and tried to warm him up in the ambulance.

       “It was a real good group effort,” said Eddie Downes, the president of the ambulance corps, who watched the rescue unfold.

       Southampton Town Animal Control took Morgan to the East End Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center in Riverhead, where he was treated for severe hypothermia, according to Dr. Gao Vatash, the president of the 24-hour emergency animal hospital.

       “He was in pretty bad shape,” Dr. Vatash said, describing the dog’s condition as life-threatening. Morgan had a slowed heart rate and a temperature below 90 degrees — dog’s temperatures range from 100.5 to 102.5 degrees, Dr. Vatash said. The animal had “petechiation,” pinpoint-sized bruising beneath the skin, a clinical sign of hypothermia, and his platelet count was depleted, the doctor said.

       Veterinarians treated him with canine plasma and rewarmed him. Morgan perked up as his heart rate and temperature increased. “He recovered great,” Dr. Vatash said. He was released on Sunday to his owners, whom Dr. Vatash declined to identify. The hospital was able to find the owners quickly thanks to a microchip implant.

       Mr. Frazier said the owners, North Haven residents, left a message at the fire department, and he returned their call yesterday. “They are extremely appreciative,” he said, adding that both their dogs had run off after getting out of a car in their driveway. One returned two hours later, but Morgan was a no-show.

       “I’m just glad this had a positive ending,” said Mr. Frazier.

       This was the second time in two weeks that the Sag Harbor Fire Department was called out to rescue a dog. On Jan. 31, a dog fell through the ice on Circle Beach. Some divers and firefighters who live nearby were able to coax it, with the help of the owner, back to shore before the trucks arrived.