A shortcut to disaster

A Golden Retriever’s shortcut home across a frozen local lake turned into a dramatic icy and dicey rescue operation by neighbors for both the dog and his owner.

In the late afternoon of Sunday, March 10, Dana Tompkins, a retired general contractor, was just returning home when he realized something was wrong at his Silver Lake residence.

“I heard a neighbor across the lake yelling for me and I just looked at her and she’s yelling ‘Samson’s in the water!’” Tompkins said. He then spotted his dog, a “150 pound” Golden Retriever, struggling in the water in the middle of the small lake. The lake lies between Milan Hollow Road and Slate Quarry Road.

“I ran down and grabbed my kayak; it was the first thing I could think of,” Tompkins said.

Tompkins pushed himself in the kayak across the ice toward Samson, knowing that his weight could break the ice at any moment.

Cindi Cole, the village clerk for Red Hook who lives across the lake from Tompkins, said Samson visited her home often. So when she saw Tompkins “running down his hill, grabbing his kayak… I instantly knew the dog was in the lake,” she said.

Her two sons, Chad, 24 and Brandon, 21, also ran outside with her to see what was going on. “[Samson] had fallen through the lake, but his front feet were on top of the ice… he was stuck, he wasn’t moving, but his body was in the cold water,” Cindi Cole said.

While Tompkins worked to reach the dog, the Cole brothers acted quickly to help.

“Me and my brother grabbed the rowboat and put it in the water,” Chad Cole, an EMT and volunteer Red Hook firefighter, recalled. “We had to chop through the ice to get to the dog. We used a 2-by-4 and an oar from the boat. We didn’t really think, we just did it.”

As Tompkins got close to his dog, the kayak went through the ice, leaving Tompkins in the kayak trapped in the hole with Samson. He was unable to pull Samson into the kayak for fear the boat would tip over, sending them both into the water. Tompkins said he had to grab the dog with one hand and stabilize the boat with the other until the Cole brothers could get to them.

“It took them awhile to get to me,” Tompkins recalled. “It may have only been 10 minutes, but it felt like an hour.”

Tompkins couldn’t estimate how long Samson had been in the water since he wasn’t home when the dog fell through. “He was very distressed when I got to him, he actually had blood coming out of his nose and on his nose,” Tompkins said.

Once the rowboat reached Tompkins and Samson, Chad Cole grabbed Samson’s collar and pulled him along, with the dog partially swimming, while Tomkins followed the rowboat to shore in his kayak.

“The whole shore was filled with… neighbors who were ready with blankets and towels, trying to help. It was touching,” he said.

“As soon as we got [Samson] out of the water, he ran around like nothing had happened,” Tompkins said, adding that Samson appears to feel “fantastic” now.

“Samson is like a big teddy bear,” Tompkins said, explaining that his dog is well-known among lake neighbors. “He used to walk across the ice when the ice was thick enough and that must be how he fell in… It would have been a disaster if I had ended up in the water [too]. Thank God the boys were around.”

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