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Dog alerts couple to drowning Rottweiler in icy Dolores River

Conditions on the Dolores River Monday, when Bill Ordemann and his wife, Karen, rescued a 130-pound dog immersed in the water and struggling to hold onto ice.
Fire chief: what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation

The Ordemanns knew something was wrong when their 2-year-old coonhound, George, barked for almost 10 minutes Monday.

Their dog has barked incessantly before, but this time, something was different.

“We’re talking on the phone with some friends, and he just went ballistic,” said Bill Ordemann. “We couldn’t settle him down.”

The Ordemanns live near Riverside Park in Dolores, and George loves going there.

So, during his barking episode, Karen Ordemann walked him to his beloved spot.

George went straight for the observation deck.

And there was a dog in the Dolores River.

Kelly, a 12-year-old, 130-pound Rottweiler, was struggling to hold her head above water. One paw desperately clutched the ice as she resisted falling completely into the biting currents below.

“She was kind of in the last stages of being able to hold on,” Bill Ordemann said.

The Ordemanns, who lived about 300 yards away, reacted quickly. They had observed Kelly playing and dipping into the river about 9 a.m. while they ate breakfast, but now, at 9:30, Kelly’s morning swim had become dire.

Bill Ordemann used a ladder to distribute his weight across the thin ice and tied a cable to Kelly’s collar.

He was nervous she wouldn’t be able to clutch the ice long enough to be rescued.

“I kept talking to her and encouraging her to hold on because she was just about gone, and it would have been so sad if she’d let go, because the ice had filled in on the river,” he said.

He pulled Kelly’s shoulders over the ice edge, while Karen Ordemann tugged from the shore.

Kelly stuck to the ice, and Bill Ordemann broke her loose. Then, she “slid like an ice puck” across the ice.

While Bill Ordemann ran home to grab a sheet, Karen Ordemann, who weighs less than Kelly, hauled the dog over a boulder onto the bank.

The tracks left behind in the snow as the Ordemanns hauled Kelly to their house Monday.

They bundled up the hypothermic Kelly in a sheet and pulled her “like a sled” to their house.

“She was completely unable to move,” Bill Ordemann said.

Kelly’s eyes were open, but showed little life. Icicles dangled from her whiskers.

It took two hours to warm her up. Kelly’s owner, Micheal Arreaga, went to the Ordemanns’ home to help warm her up. She had rescued Kelly a year ago. Back then, Kelly was only 80 pounds.

Kelly’s owner, Micheal Arreaga, left, and Karen Ordemann, right, spent two hours warming Kelly up after she was rescued Monday from the icy Dolores River.
It took the Ordemanns and Kelly’s owner, Micheal Arreaga, two hours to warm her up after she almost succumbed to ice in the Dolores River.

“This is her second chance at living a long and happy life,” Bill Ordemann said.

Kelly made a full recovery. The next day, she was enjoying a quesadilla.

“She’s back in her old ways of trying to pee on the carpet when she’s not supposed to,” Arreaga said.

Kelly’s ordeal appears to be the first reported ice incident this winter. Both the Dolores and Cortez fire departments said they haven’t responded to any similar rescue yet.

Mike Zion, chief of the Dolores Fire Protection District, advised people in a similar situation to call 911. That way, if the rescuer slipped into the icy water, help would be on the way.

Fire officials typically take part in a few ice rescues each year, but none have ended in death, said Zion and Jay Balfour, chief of the Cortez Fire Protection District.

Both departments engage in yearly ice rescue training. For the Cortez fire department, the weather hasn’t been cold enough for substantial ice to form.

A person who is at risk of slipping under ice should hold their head above water and, if possible, break the thin ice until reaching solid ice to hoist themselves out, Zion said. It’s best to crawl along the ice and stay as flat as possible, he said.

“With the ice warming up like this, people ought to be staying off the ice,” Zion said.

Balfour cautioned dog owners not to follow their animals onto ice, and to call fire officials instead.

“It's much safer for us to do it with the appropriate equipment and personal protective suits that we put on to put our people in, in and out on the ice,” he said.