Mich. Officer Enlists Dog to Help Rescue Owner, Who Fell Into Frozen Lake

"You revert to the tools in front of you," Michigan State Police Officer Kammeron Bennetts tells PEOPLE

<p>MSP Seventh District/X</p>

MSP Seventh District/X

  • A 65-year-old man fell into Arbutus Lake, near Traverse City, Michigan

  • Michigan State Police Officer Kammeron Bennetts couldn't reach the man, so he coaxed the man's dog, Ruby, to help with the rescue

  • The quick-thinking officer used a "rescue disc" attached to Ruby's collar to pull the man to safety

A Michigan police officer who couldn't reach a man who had fallen through the ice on a lake and was running out of time in the frigid water was able to get help with the rescue from the man's dog, who was standing on the ice next to her owner.

"Will she come to me? Ruby come here!," called out Michigan State Police Officer Kammeron Bennetts, 30, as the Brittany bird hunting dog stood by the small hole made when her owner, who had gone out to check ice fishing conditions on Thursday, broke through the ice and plunged into Arbutus Lake near Traverse City, he tells PEOPLE.

"I could see him bobbing," Bennetts said, knowing that he had to work quickly but was only able to safely stand about 30-40 feet away on the thin ice. "It could be two seconds or it could be two minutes. But when he goes under, he's not coming back up."

According to his body-cam video, the officer first throws out a frisbee-like rescue disc tied to a rope but it lands a few feet short of the 65-year-old man. He then enlists the help of the dog, whom he calls over and tries to get to bite the rope. When she can't get a hold of it, Bennetts attaches the rope to her collar, then instructs the owner to call her back.

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Ruby races back and splashes into the water, depositing the disc into the man's hands. After pushing Ruby back onto the ice, the man holds onto the disc while Bennetts tells him to kick his legs to bring his feet up to the surface. Bennetts and a Grand Traverse Metro firefighter then pull the rope until they're able to drag the man out of an estimated 8-10 feet of water, onto the ice and eventually to the shore where he was able to walk to an ambulance.

The man, who did not want to comment, was taken to a hospital for treatment and then released, according to Michigan State Police Lt. Derrick Carroll.

Bennetts, who's been on the force two years, said training and instinct took over. He was a few miles away when bystanders called 911 to report the incident and arrived to find the lake with a thin layer of "spongy" ice covered by about a foot of snow on top.

He had trained for water rescues and ice rescues and had himself been under ice-cold water during submersion training for about five minutes. "Within a minute your dexterity in your fingers goes, you lose speech, you lose everything," he said.

<p>Courtesy Kammeron Bennetts</p> Officer Kammeron Bennetts

Courtesy Kammeron Bennetts

Officer Kammeron Bennetts

Related: Barking Dog Leads Rescuers to Hiker Stranded 170 Feet Below Remote Trail in Hawaii

With air temperatures about 18 degrees and surface water temperature about 30 degrees, the man had been in the water about 16 minutes and was in a precarious situation, he said.

"They go under the ice," Bennetts said. "This does not happen very often where we have a successful rescue."

Bennetts, who owns a bird hunting dog, a German shorthaired pointer named Tanner, said he relied on his training and knowledge of dogs during the rescue.

"You revert to the tools in front of you. I only had a dog in front of me, so use the dog," he said. "I saw she was ready to go to work."

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Bennetts said the man thanked him afterward. "I said, 'You better give the dog a ribeye.'" The man said he was going to reward Ruby with her favorite activity. "He said, 'I'm going to take her out and go hunting.'"

Lt. Carroll said Bennetts' actions were very appreciated. "Everyone is impressed by (his) ability to take control of the situation and his ability to think outside the box to rescue the man in such a timely manner."

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