NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- An 18-year-old used his kayak to save a German Shepherd that was stuck in an ice-filled Lafayette River Friday.
An off-duty firefighter contacted Norfolk Fire-Rescue about the dog around 10 a.m. Crews went to Norway Place and Lafayette Boulevard and set up at someone's pier.
James Whitham, barefoot, took his kayak out into the river to rescue the dog.
“I’m kind of hacking through the ice to get there,” said Whitham. “From about the shoulders up and it’s front two paws were on the ice, everything else was in the water, it was very cold and shaking.”
The dog was howling in fear. Getting her into the kayak was not going to be an easy task.
“At first it was a little frantic, kind of jumping around, but I kind of settled it, it was cold, shivering, and I kind of threw it in-between my legs and it kind of cuddled up on me for warmth,” said Whitham.
The water was cold enough to send the canine and James into hypothermia. The biggest concern was the boat tipping over.
“I knew that was a possibility but I did my best effort to be as planted as I could,” said Whitman.
Whitman paddled to the closet dock. Neighbors and firefighters were waiting, ready to help.
“They were able to extend a pole to help pull him in because he was having trouble getting in because of the ice,” said witness Susie Coplon.
No one was certain how long the dog had been in the river, but an animal protection officer said people saw the dog running around the neighborhood for several days.
Coplon has dogs of her own, she couldn’t imagine if it was one of them being pulled from freezing water.
“Well I would be horrified if my dogs got out and got lost and if they got in the river that would be even worse but it had a happy ending,” said Coplon.
The German Shepherd is expected to be alright and is in the process of being reunited with her owner.
“I’m happy to hear that because there probably could have been a lot worse consequences,” said Whitman. “I’m glad it’s doing better and going to have a good recovery.”
Officers took the dog to Raby Road Animal Protection for treatment.