A black Labrador and Rottweiler mix dog was pulled from the Raritan River by Bridgewater firefighters Wednesday evening after it fell through the ice.
According to North Branch fire chief David Hickson, he received a call from Bridgewater Township Police around 5:15 p.m. Wednesday that there was a report of a dog having fallen through the ice in the North Branch of the Raritan River between Branchburg and Bridgewater.
"North Branch Fire, with a specialized Swift Water Rescue Team, has the personnel and equipment to handle this highly unique call," he said. "North Branch immediately called in the help of Bridgewater's Green Knoll Fire Company for mutual aid."
"Green Knoll's elevated platform ladder truck has the ability to span outward to pluck the animal out of the water, while keeping rescuers safely on dry ground," he added.
But once they reached the river, Hickson said, they found that access to the dog was hundreds of feet off the roadway at the back of Meadowview Road. Deputy Chief Mike Russoniello, Hickson said, found that the dog was clinging to the edge of thin ice that was about 40 feet into the river in a 6-foot pool of running water.
"The large animal had been in the water for approximately 30 minutes and was in great distress," Hickson said.
Hickson said Russoniello and the rest of the firefighters moved their equipment to the edge of the river, with ropes, dry suits, ladders, lighting and a basket.
"His plan was to tether two rescuers to crews on land and spread ladders across the frozen river to evenly distribute their weight over a greater span to reduce the chance of becoming victims themselves," he said.
Russoniello was assisted by firefighter Rob Sinibaldi, and they got within 4 feet of the dog. Using a tool that Animal Control Officers use to lasso animals, Hickson said, they were able to grab the dog and put it in the basket to bring it to shore.
"At shore, the Green Knoll Rescue Squad supplied blankets and towels to dry the animal, and a North Branch firefighter wrapped it in a turnout coat to keep it warm," he said.
Hickson said the dog was not wearing a collar at the time and no one was around to claim it. But, he said, the dog has a microchip, so it can be reunited with its family.
At the time of the rescue, Hickson said, the dog was in hypothermia, but has been cared for and is now in excellent condition.
The Somerset Regional Animal Shelter transported the dog to Animerge in Raritan.