80-year-old was trying to save his English setter when he too fell through the ice

Solon Rhode's friends, who had come over to play bridge, managed to pull him out with a rope

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SHAFTSBURY, Vt. — An 80-year-old retired doctor was rescued by friends Thursday afternoon after falling through the ice while trying to save his English setter.

Solon Rhode estimates he spent about 20 minutes in the water before his wife's three friends, who had come over to play bridge, managed to pull him out of the small pond on his property at 552 Bouplon Hollow Road with a rope.

He was starting out for a hike at around 1 p.m. when he saw his English setter, Brie, had fallen through the ice.

"I keep a canoe under the deck for this kind of thing," he said. He dragged the canoe to the pond, but found it didn't slide on the ice and snow well, so he pushed it while walking on the ice.

"I didn't get that far from shore when I went through the ice, and couldn't get into the canoe or onto the ice," he said. "The canoe kept tipping over and I was heavy being wet up to my chest and the water was too deep to stand there."

He yelled for a rope — and for someone to call 911.

"I'm 80 years old," he said. "I thought — this could go bad."

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Once his wife's friends rescued him, it was time to save Brie. First responders arrived, and got her out.

"They come with buoys and ropes," Rhode said. "They broke their way through the ice to get to the dog."

Rhode estimates Brie was in the water about 30 minutes.

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Emergency personnel ran EKGs on Rhode, and got him out of his heavy, wet clothes. "Then I started to really shiver," he said.

Responders recommended he get to the emergency room. "But I'm a retired doctor, and I felt OK," Rhode said. Once he warmed up, he said, he felt fine.

It's not the first time Brie has fallen through the ice — the last time, years ago, she managed to get herself out, Rhode said.

Now, he said, he knows the canoe plan won't work for future mishaps.

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"Climbing back into the canoe in water over your head wearing wet heavy clothing and winter boots is not as easy as when you are in a swimsuit in the summer," he said. "I need a new plan."

Bennington Rescue Squad, the Vermont State Police, the Shaftsbury Fire Department and the North Bennington Fire Department responded to the scene, Shaftsbury Fire Chief Joe Vadakin said.

Vadakin said there has not been another fall through ice in the area "in recent memory."

The temperature Thursday afternoon was 35 degrees with a wind chill of 26, according to the National Weather Service.

But, Rhode said, it's not as cold in the water as one might expect.

"Wearing all those clothes — it's sort of like a wetsuit," he said. "It didn't feel as cold as you think."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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