Rupert and the Frozen Pond

The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself, too.
― Samuel Butler

I went out for a walk with the dogs a while back; it was just after a cold snap, -20°C for a week or so, and finally it was warming up. You wouldn’t call it warm per se, being only a few degrees above zero, but in comparison to what we were having before it was positively balmy. At 2 or 3°C I was still decked out in winter boots/coat, scarf, toque and mitts. I didn’t go crazy thinking it was shorts and tee-shirt weather just yet, although I’m sure some people in this city would have argued to the contrary. My point is that though it was sunny and pleasant, it was still cold with no shortage of ice and snow.

Rupert, for whatever reason, decided that that day was a good day to test how serious I am about our relationship.  Rupert is my 2 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, although some might mistake him for my own biological son, seeing as we’re both redheads and all.


He’s about twenty pounds and a bit of a trouble maker. Lately he’s been going through a phase of doggy teenage rebellion. The terrible twos, perhaps. I don’t know. The other day, for example, I went out to meet a friend for lunch. I was only gone for an hour and by the time I came home Rupert had managed to chew most of the hair off one of his ears. As if he purposely gave himself a haircut he knew I would hate.

The area that I take them to is about a thirty minute walk from home. It’s in a bit of a valley, forested; very pretty. A few years ago the city installed these storm ponds in the area and fenced them (and much of the forest) off in a reclamation attempt. Which is fortunate when it’s wintertime because you wouldn’t want to be walking the dogs where all these frozen ponds are, you know?

Well as it turned out the local coyotes didn’t much care for the fencing. I guess it was in the way of their usual hunting commutes, so naturally they tore a hole right through the bottom of one of the sections. You wouldn’t really notice it unless you happened to look at it, but unfortunately for me Rupert leaves nothing unchecked and he is of course the perfect size to squeeze right through.

I see him staring at me from the other side, right by this big, and now somewhat thawing, frozen pond. Neither of us is moving, we’re at a standstill.

Me: Rupert!

(I’m yelling, of course.)

Me: Come here! Back on this side!

Rupert: *stare*

Me: I swear to god, Rupert, I will end you if you don’t come here right now.

Rupert: *wags*

I’m using my stern, warning voice, which I believe is his favourite to make a mockery of. He’s holding all the cards and he knows it. He has a very particular look on his face, and I know it all too well. It’s his I’m-such-a-devil-I-love-breaking-the-rules-and-not-listening-to-my-mom look.

I call him one more time and as I make my move toward the fence he turns and bolts like a bandit toward the pond, right onto the ice. Had this happened earlier in the week when it was still a frozen wasteland, it probably wouldn’t have been a problem. But as it’s above freezing, and the sun is shining, the centre of said pond is starting to melt. As I’m watching him run off, tail in the air, hearing his happy panting breaths as he gallops across the ice, I say out loud…. he’s gonna fall in. Seconds later I watch him disappear under the ice.


You see, if this had happened to Buttercup (my other dog) I might not have worried so much. She is a duck toller and a true water dog. But not Rupert. He can’t swim (so far as I know). Especially in frozen water, I’m sure. The most he had ever done during summer when I took them to the river was dip his paws in.

I hauled ass over the fence like an inmate during the critical final seconds of their prison escape. At least I’d like to think so. I dropped down to the other side and ran to the edge of the pond, seeing his little head bob up and down as he splashed around, trying to get his grip on the surface ice to pull himself up. To no avail. Each time he tried the ice would break apart more and more and back under he’d go. Behind us on the other side, Buttercup had taken notice of the commotion and at the sight of her best friend trapped in the water, started panicking and running back and forth at the fence. Barking like mad. It really was one of those slow motion moments. After another failed attempt poor Rupert finally managed to get a grip on the ice with his two front paws and held himself there. Clearly he could not get out on his own. His little eyes were wide with panic as he called to me for help…

There was only one thing to do.

Off went my winter coat, my sweater, my jeans, my boots, my socks, my mitts. I was keeping eye contact with Rupert the whole time, telling him “just wait. I’ll be right there.” Thankfully no one was around to see me standing there, barefoot in the snow, in my tank top, underwear, and toque. I’m sure I looked utterly stupid. If I thought the snow was a misery under my feet, it was nothing compared to how frigid the pond was as I lowered myself in through the ice. Strong enough to hold a little dog for a time, but good luck if you’re a full grown woman.

I waded through as swiftly as I possibly could, breaking the ice apart as I went.  It was bitterly cold and though it was awful to near skinny-dip in icy water, I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all as I looked Rupert in the face and said “I can’t believe you’re making me do this.”

By the time I was close enough to reach him I was up to my bellybutton in freezing water. I grabbed him and squeezed him to my chest, holding him as best I could out of the water and hopefully giving him whatever body heat I might have retained. I mean how long can a little dog last in a frozen pond before he gets pneumonia? I plopped him down as we reached land and lifted myself back onto the slightly less awful snow bank.

It was a long walk back to the house, to say the least. With no car access, and no one around, there was nothing to do but dry myself off as best I could with my coat and slip my muddy frozen feet into my boots and trudge home for a well earned shower.

So that’s the story of Rupert and the frozen pond. Thanks for reading if you made it this far. And if you have a fur-baby be sure to give them an extra pat today. You never know when they might do something stupid like fall in a frozen pond.

53 thoughts on “Rupert and the Frozen Pond

  1. What can I say? I’m envious of Rupert for the hugs that he received from you (un-) dressed like that, but the experience for both of you must have been frightful at the time. Happy all went well.

      1. Yep, three times a day! The point probably was to not take the body so seriously. After all, the body is a servo-mechanism for the being who runs it, like a dancer uses the body to create effects and images she wants to create from her imagination. To my way of it, there is YOU… and then is the body.

  2. This was entertaining and a little scary. But I’d do the same. My dog is scared of EVERYTHING. And she’s tiny. Maybe 5-8 pounds? But good job with the rescue! 😊

  3. Oh, I am so glad the story had a happy ending and that you and Rupert are all warmed up and dry again. It wouldn’t have been if you hadn’t “hauled ass over the fence like an inmate during the critical final seconds of their prison escape”!

  4. You are very brave, but look at his little face! He is too cute and who would not brave icy cold water for such a charming, handsome fellow?

      1. Buggers yes, but what would we do without them? I question I know the answer to by the fact you didn’t hesitate to jump in icy water to save Rupert!

      1. Ha! Definitely. I have a 65lb Springer (my only son) who I am sure thinks the same thing. He’s a big chicken though; he won’t even get in warm water.

      1. I know what you mean. My dog is a Lab and breaks out of the fence occasionally to lovingly terrorize neighbors’ dogs. Happened again just yesterday.

  5. OMG! 🙂 Must have felt phenomenal to finally get into the warmth and out of the cold, with Rupert in hand. I would have drank hot chocolate and ate cookies all day after that. —Chagall

  6. I have a daughter – stubborn as all h*ll. I love her but she definitely tests my patience. And she is getting worse as she gets older – she is now 10. Your young man is adorable and I am so happy that this story had a happy ending. Remember – stay away from frozen lakes and anything else which could get a bit scary:) 🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾

  7. You’re bad ass. In my mind, if it makes you feel better, you totally just put one hand on the fence and vaulted over, landing like a ninja. 😛 Also, you’re an incredibly loving dog owner. I miss owning a dog 😦

    1. I’ve never not had one. I don’t know what I’d do without my pups.

      Spend less time in the yard, maybe… which doesn’t sound so bad now that I think about it. 😉

      1. Absolutely! Although, some of us clearly have to work harder than others. 🙂 I have (fortunately) never been in a situation that even comes close to “Rupert and the Frozen Pond.”

  8. I’ve always envied people with fur-babies, but suddenly I’m thinking I might be better acclimated to being friends with a tortoise… 😉 Lucky Rupert!

  9. You are both very lucky. I’m reminded of a story written by Albert Payson Turhune. I believe it was one of his Gray Dawn stories. Of course in that case it was the boy who fell in the water and the dog who did the rescuing. BTW, thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you stop by again soon.

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