A Labrador mix named Ashii is lucky to be alive today after he fell into a hole in the ice on the Chena River, about 50 miles east of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Travis Gottlin had taken his dog Ashii to Angel Rocks, which is a popular hiking trail far out on Chena Hot Springs Road. It was his first time on the hike and somewhere near the start of the train where it parallels the Chena River, Gottlin stopped to take a picture with his cellphone.
This is when everything changed. Ashii had fallen through a hole in the icy river. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner newspaper reports that Gottlin thought he had lost his 2-year-old dog forever. All he could see was water and darkness in the hole, and the river ice was so thick it could not be broken, so the outcome did not look good. “I just kind of sat down and started to cry,” Gottlin stated Monday. “I didn’t think there was anything I could do.” Gottlin has his dog Ashii since it was a puppy, and owns 3 other dogs, but only one went with him on this hike. He never thought it could have been her last.
Gottlin, a science teacher in the interior Alaska community of Nenana, heard a bump under the ice and the sound of his dog whining about 20 feet from where it had disappeared. Ashii was standing in open water below a layer of ice, with just enough space above the water to fit his nose and eyes. The side bank was shallow enough for him stand up under the ice, but the current was pushing him slowly downstream, Gottlin said. “He saw me and once we made eye contact it was, ‘OK. We can do this,” he said. The ice was thin enough there that he was able to kick out a hole large enough to grab Ashii by the collar and pull him out.
Dog and owner were both freezing and soaking wet. But the dog was otherwise fine except for a scratch on his nose. Gottlin cannot express how thankful he is to still have Ashii and has learned a valuable lesson about the dangers of rivers around breakup time.