MICHIGAN CITY | Buster was back in good spirits Thursday after coming about as close to death as it gets after plunging through thin ice.
The golden retriever basset hound mix was submerged, except for his nose, when Coolspring Township firefighters plucked him out of frigid water Wednesday night.
Barbara Tanner, who lives two doors away from Buster, said the sound of the dog slipping away in the frozen lake was heartbreaking.
"I could hear him gasping for breath and yelping," said Tanner.
About 11 p.m., emergency responders were called to Weatherstone Village, a manufactured home community along U.S. 20 just west of Michigan City's city limits.
Pet owner Dave Klimczyk said he tried reaching Buster, but when he got 5 feet from the dog he fell through the ice. The ice was on a 30- to 40-acre lake along Lakeview Drive.
Klimczyk said he made it back to shore and was inside the house putting some dry clothing on when firefighters showed up and began rescuing Buster.
Coolspring Township firefighter Capt. Wes Rogers said he, along with Coolspring Township Fire Chief Mick Pawlik and safety officer Todd Laux, wearing rescue suits and ropes tied to each other, stepped onto the 1- to 2-inch-thick ice and slid out to the dog on their stomachs.
The dog was about 75 yards from the shoreline and had been in the 6-foot-deep water for more than 30 minutes. Rogers said only the nose of the exhausted dog was sticking above the small hole in the ice where he fell in.
Two of the firefighters broke through the ice and lowered themselves into the water to grab hold of the dog and lift him back onto the ice. The dog was outfitted with a flotation device and pulled back to shore with a rope.
"It was that dog's lucky day," said Rogers.
Klimczyk said he placed a near frozen Buster in a tub of warm water, then drove him to the animal clinic at Purdue North Central outside Westville. Buster was allowed to go home about one hour later, after his body temperature warmed back up to 98 degrees.
Klimczyk said Buster was still tired and moving around kind of slowly, but appeared happy, judging by his tail wagging and the many licks he gave to faces.
"Last night was horrible. I thought he was gone," Klimczyk said. "I feel good that we got our family member back."