Chicago officers rescue man, dog from frozen Lake Michigan
When officers arrived, they pulled the man out of the water using a passerby’s dog leash
CHICAGO — A man who was rescued from Lake Michigan after jumping in the icy water to save his puppy is issuing a warning to other pet owners: Keep your dogs on a leash and stay away from the water until the ice melts.
The 33-year-old man and his dog, a 9-month-old American Eskimo mix named Pika, have recovered from the ordeal that took place near the shores of Foster Beach on Sunday afternoon. But the man, who was pulled out of the water by Chicago police officers in a video captured by body cameras, worries other animal lovers may find themselves or their pets in danger because of the treacherous conditions.
“I was obviously very foolish and in the wrong for letting my dog off leash in the park. … But I’m also concerned about nearby Montrose Dog Beach,” the man wrote in an email to the Tribune on Tuesday but asked not to be named. “The ice ridges are just as big and dangerous on Montrose Dog Beach, and I worry about dog owners and their dogs visiting those areas in these conditions. There is a real danger of a dog falling behind the ice ridge and needing a rescue.”
Michelle Burke, a member of the Montrose Dog Beach advisory council, echoed that concern and urged people to stay away from the park even though it will technically be open. The park is among about 20 areas within the Chicago Park District designated as dog-friendly and the largest with access to the lake.
“We just hope dog parents will use common sense and stay home (Wednesday),” said Burke, whose group oversees day-to-day operations at the park, supplies waste bags and organizes group cleanups of the beach.
For now, the Montrose park and all Chicago Park District facilities are scheduled to remain open Wednesday, said Michele Lemons, a district spokeswoman. That could change depending on the weather, she added.
The area where Pika and his owner were rescued on Sunday used to be located by a dog-friendly area. But the park near Foster Beach was destroyed by rising lake levels and closed in October 2015.
The man said he had been to Foster Beach hundreds of times before with his beloved Bowser, a Chow mix who died last year, but Sunday marked the man’s first visit there with 19-pound Pika, whom he and his wife adopted in November.
It was supposed to be a quick trip, just 15 minutes or so while the man’s wife popped into Mariano’s in the Edgewater Beach neighborhood. But Pika got excited, darted across a field and reached the icy shore of Lake Michigan.
“He was barking at the waves as they hit the ridge, and I believe he lost his balance and fell in,” the man said.
The man ran after Pika and realized the dog would die from drowning or the cold, so he jumped in after him. The water was waist-high, but the man was able to hoist Pika onto his shoulder and find a spot to put him on dry land. The ice around the man, however, was about 2 feet above his head and he couldn’t climb out. As his hands grew numb, the man managed to dial 911 from his cellphone, which was still functional despite getting wet. A passerby also called police.
When officers arrived, they pulled the man out of the water using the passerby’s dog leash. The man and Pika were treated at a hospital, where they snuggled under a warming blanket.
As temperatures are expected to drop to historic and dangerous lows this week, with a daytime high of about minus 14 on Wednesday, the man is cautioning other pet owners to stay away from the lake.
“I’ve seen many ice formations in my nearly seven years of visiting these beaches in the winter, but these ice walls are the tallest and most shear I’ve ever seen,” the man wrote. “There is a terrible danger of a dog falling behind these ice walls. Please stay away until they have melted.”
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