GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (AP) - A dog that was presumed drowned after falling into a river channel that feeds Lake Michigan and disappearing beneath the icy water was found alive hours later and returned to its grateful owner.
A December accident involving a new coast guard icebreaker may have ended up saving the dog's life.
The Grand Haven Department of Public Safety said Robert Chavez, of Ottawa County's Grand Haven Township, was walking two of his dogs alongside the Grand River around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday when one of the animals, a German shepherd, fell into the channel and broke through the ice.
The icy conditions prevented Chavez from getting the dog out of the water, so he ran to a nearby home and called 911. When he returned to the river, he could not find the dog, the Grand Haven Tribune reported.
Officers from the Public Safety Department and the coast guard station in Grand Haven arrived and searched the water and the surrounding area. They also could not find the animal, which they presumed had drowned.
Around 9:45 p.m., a woman called the department to report that she and her friends had heard a dog barking as they walked along the channel's south pier, which is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Responding officers also heard barking. It appeared to be coming from a tunnel beneath the pier, but they were unable to remove a service cover to gain access to the tunnel.
Corps personnel were contacted but said they would not be able to assist until Wednesday morning.
Two hours later, a man called the Public Safety Department to report that he had heard barking sounds coming from below the surface of the pier, so he managed to remove the 30-centimetre service cover and found a dog trapped in the tunnel.
Ottawa County sheriff's Deputy Mike Petroelje, who has experience handling dogs, was contacted and soon responded to the scene. The Muskegon Chronicle reported that he used a leash to free the dog, which was not injured.
Officials said they believe the German shepherd gained access to the tunnel by swimming through a hole created in the channel's seawall when it was rammed by the Mackinaw while the new icebreaker was on a tour of Great Lakes ports.
The Mackinaw's captain was removed from his post after the accident, which also left a dent in the bow of the $90 million US ship.