‘They saved her life’: How Long Grove firefighters rescued dog from icy pond

Long Grove Fire Protection District crews did some heavy lifting Friday morning when they pulled a soaking wet 120-pound Great Pyrenees named Belle from an icy pond behind her home.

On Monday, the rescuers reunited with Belle and her owner, Roseanne Stavros, in the much warmer and more comfortable surroundings of their fire station.

“I give all the credit to the fire department. They saved her life,” Stavros said. “She had already been treading water probably for about a half-hour, so she didn’t have much left in her.”

Stavros said that before Belle plunged through the ice at about 9:30 a.m. Friday, she’d never before seen the 7-year-old dog wander onto the frozen pond on the property of her Long Grove home.

“I went out there and tried to get to her,” she said. “And there was no way. It’s like quicksand. I got up to my thighs and realized there was no way.”

She called rescue, and a crew from the fire protection district arrived, including Battalion Chief John Jaworski, Lt. Brian Fluhler and firefighter/paramedics Jake Gross, Greg Hanik, Nick McDowell and Bradley Roberts.

“You could see the body of water with the ice right as we were pulling into the driveway,” McDowell said. “The dog was clearly in the area of the ice where there was a pretty large hole and not really any good area for it to rescue itself out of there.”

Roberts, Hanik and Gross helped McDowell into a protective suit before he ventured into the water and attached a rescue sling to Belle. He had never used the sling on a dog before, but Belle cooperated fully.

“There weren’t too many hiccups in the process,” McDowell said. “The ice was able to be broken just by hand. So we were able to create a lane out to the dog.

Roseanne Stavros and Belle, center, reunited Monday with her dog’s rescuers, from left to right, Battalion Chief John Jaworski, firefighter/paramedic Jake Gross, firefighter/paramedic Greg Hanik, firefighter/paramedic Nick McDowell, firefighter/paramedic Bradley Roberts and Lt. Brian Fluhler. Courtesy of Roseanne Stavros

“Once we were able to get the flotation around it and just give it a little bit of assistance, it was able to sort of swim along with my help,” he added.

Once Belle was safe on shore, the next challenge was removing the black slime that covered the normally white-furred dog clean. After trying a couple of different dog shampoos without much success, Dawn dish soap did the trick.

“That dirt in the pond is like tar,” Stavros said.

Long Grove Fire Protection District firefighter/paramedic Nick McDowell ventures into an icy pond Friday to rescue Belle, a 120-pound Great Pyrenees who fell into the frozen waters Friday. The pond is on the property of Belle’s owners, Roseanne and Al Stavros. Courtesy of Roseanne Stavros
Belle relaxes under a warm blanket after being rescued Friday from an icy pond behind her home in Long Grove. Courtesy of Roseanne Stavros
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