BILLINGS – St. Bernards were bred to help with alpine rescues, but a 16-month-old St. Bernard needed rescuing himself after escaping from his yard and ending up frozen to the ice on a pond at a golf course.
Duke was in good condition Friday afternoon, after being de-iced and warmed up under a blow-dryer at a veterinary clinic.
Duke’s owner, Gene Larson, believes the 118-pound dog escaped through a back gate about 8 p.m. Thursday. The family was unable to locate the dog and went to bed Thursday night hoping he would be back in the morning.
Rescuers believe that Duke fell through the ice on the pond sometime during the night but was able to pull himself out. Once the wet dog sat on the ice, he became stuck.
A maintenance worker at the Peter Yegen Jr. Golf Club spotted the dog about 9 a.m. Friday and launched the rescue.
Two firefighters in dry suits pushed an ice rescue sled over about 10 feet of hip-deep water and 10 feet of ice to reach the shivering dog.
The firefighters ended up breaking the ice around Duke’s tail with a mallet, then hauling the dog and a chunk of ice back to shore.
It took four firefighters to lift the dog onto a golf cart.
Duke was taken to Big Sky Pet Center for treatment. Duke’s collar and tags identified him, and workers called Larson.
“He’s my little buddy,” Larson said. Then he corrected himself: “He’s my big buddy.”