Local man flounders in icy pond in attempt to save family pooch

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In a classic story of man loves dog, a Warren County man risked his own safety Tuesday by venturing onto an icy pond to save his family’s pet, Jack.

Stephen Johnson, 55, was returning to his Shenandoah Road home when he saw that his dog had fallen through the thin sheet of ice that had covered his pond for five days.

As Johnson stood in the 30-degree temperature looking for a shallow place in the pond and trying to think of a way to retrieve his 8-year-old Brittany spaniel, he saw Jack go under twice.

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“He was giving up, but when he saw me come out unto the ice, he got a second wind,” said Johnson. “I thought he was on his last leg.”

Johnson, a health physicist for Entergy at Grand Gulf Nuclear Station, tried to get a board and ladder to reach the dog, but that didn’t work, so he inched closer to Jack. Then the ice was too thin and Johnson fell through and found himself going under — more than once.

“I stopped hollering for the neighbors and started hollering for God to help me,” he said Tuesday night in the dry warmth of his home.

He beat and crushed ice to form a path to the board that he finally used to pull himself and Jack from the pond. Then, noticing his hands were swollen, he quickly called 911.

“I thought I was OK until I tried to take my clothes off,” he said.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said Johnson suffered from hypothermia and was taken to River Region Medical Center. He was released hours later with scarred swollen hands that hurt too much to use. Meanwhile, Jack was dried off and kept in a warm room.

When it was all over, the husband and father of three said he could not believe he had not taken his own advice.

“I try to tell my children not to do (things like) that, but to go get help,” said Johnson. “I should have done that.”

Contact Tish Butts at tbutts@vicksburgpost.com