It was a very cold January afternoon. The temperature was 19 degrees; the wind chill was approaching the numbers. But Jennifer Torres didn’t care. Rust was in trouble.
Torres is the superintendent of Westlake Country Club in Jackson Township, New Jersey. Rusty is his work partner, a 4-year-old Border Collie.
Late in the afternoon of January 11, the two were on their way. Torres was checking that some trees had been removed. Rusty ran free and did his job, chasing geese.
The pair quickly reached the par-3 sixth hole, which features a pond and on this occasion were occupied by what Torres calls “Two pesky little resident geese”, who were reluctant to leave the frozen pond despite Rusty’s best efforts.
Torres describes what happened next:
“He wouldn’t give up trying to get them to leave,” she said. “There was actually an area that hadn’t frozen over because the dabblers were in that pond. He got in and the geese finally flew away.
But Rusty found himself unable to get out of the freezing water. Standing near the back tee, maybe 100 yards from the pond, Torres realized her friend was in trouble. Like the high school athlete she once was, she took off in a sprint towards the pond.
“I started screaming,” she says, “trying to get someone from one of the houses (the club is part of a residential community) to at least hear me so someone Someone knew I needed help Not that I thought any of these people were going to jump in the water with me, but at least someone would know I was in trouble.
“I grabbed a stake that was along the pond and it wasn’t moving. At that point, I said, ‘He’s running out of time. He’s starting to thrash and sink,” so I jumped onto the ice with my feet and started breaking the ice and pushing my way through the water to him.
Within moments, Torres was waist deep in water and mud. Luckily Rusty was only about 10 feet from shore.
“I was able to grab his collar and lift it up and he came straight with me,” Torres says, “and he got out of the water before me. By the time we got to land he was fine. I was a little slow trying to get out of the water.
At that time, a resident had come out of his home to see if the couple was okay.
Both wet and cold, they made the short drive to Torres’ store where she wrapped Rusty in blankets and called Flyaway Geese in Charlotte, North Carolina, the company that paired Torres with Rusty. two years ago, asking about signs of hypothermia. .
Physically, Rusty was fine. But since the accident, he does not venture far from his friend’s side. “He’s still clinging to mom a little more than usual,” Torres says. “It wasn’t his fault. He was focused on the geese. He was doing his job. »
Torres posted an account of the accident on her Facebook page and received many responses from her professional peers who didn’t need to know why she had risked her safety and possibly her life to save her dog.
“Every one of them said they would do the same,” she says.
Torres offered these suggestions for working with a dog in cold/icy conditions:
- Take the time to check your course If the ice on the edge of a pond is so deep that you think your dog can’t get out. Don’t take them out or be sure to keep them on a leash
- Invest in a very good safety vest for them. Some are very good for the working dog. This gives them an extra sense of protection. If they go into a pond or stream and can’t get out, that gives you a bit more time to reach them.
Rick Woelfel is a Philadelphia-based writer and frequent contributor to the golf course industry.