Man tells harrowing story of his rescue from icy Lake Michigan after jumping in to save his puppy

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
January 29, 2019, 3:43:53 PM EST

Chicago police officers pulled a man to safety after he attempted to save his dog from frigid Lake Michigan on Sunday.

The man and his 9-month-old dog, Pika, are in good condition.

"Weather on Sunday in Chicago was very cold with clouds and some sun. The day started around 4 below zero near sunrise with light winds. At that time, the AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperature was near 10 below zero," AccuWeather Meteorologist Carl Erickson said.

According to Erickson, by noon, the temperature was 5 above zero with a RealFeel® Temperature of 2 below zero, and the temperature remained low through the evening.

"Temperatures during the entire day remained in the single digits," Erickson said.

Lake water temperatures near the Chicago shore were around 33 to 34 degrees.

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Police save man’s life after jumping into lake to rescue his dog

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, sent a letter to extend his gratitude to the Chicago Police officers and first responders who saved his life.

The letter is below:

"I first want to extend my gratitude the Chicago Police officers and first responders who came to my aid. They absolutely saved my life and I will be forever grateful to them.

I took my recently adopted dog, Pika, to Lincoln Park by Foster beach Saturday afternoon. I’ve been visiting that beach and park in all weathers for years with my recently deceased dog, Bowser. This was Pika’s first visit to the park, he is a 9 month old American Eskimo mix.

He was very excited and got away from me, ran down to the beach, and then to the edge of the large ice ridges that form during cold winters.

I saw him disappear over the ridge. I ran up and looked down six feet to see him paddling in freezing cold water. He is a 19 pound dog and I knew that he would soon die from cold or drowning. I jumped in after him. The water was only to my waist and I lifted him onto my shoulder.

Ice walls that rose two feet above my head stretched across the entire shore, trapping us in the water. I looked for a possible exit but could not find one. I trudged through the icy water for maybe 20 feet and came upon a portion of the ice wall that was lower. From where I stood in the water it was the height of my head.

I placed Pika above me on the ice and tried to climb out. The ice walls were bulbous and smooth with no ridge I could place a foot on. I realized I would not be able to get myself out.

My hands were numb and flipper-like at this point. It took me about 20 tries to get my phone out of my pocket. Thankfully, it was water resistant and I was able to call 911.

Unbeknownst to me, a passerby had seen me jump in and alerted nearby police officers who heroically pulled me out with the passerby's dog leash.

I have no doubt that I would have died without help, I am forever grateful to them. The first responders treated me and my dog in the ambulance and the emergency room. They allowed Pika to stay with me under the warming blanket in the ER. My core body temperature had dropped to 93 degrees.

Pika and I are both fully recovered and in debt to our gracious and heroic first responders.

This incident happened at Foster beach, but I’m sure the conditions at nearby Montrose dog beach are the same and I would caution all dog owners to keep their dogs away from the lake in these conditions.

I’ve seen many ice formations in my nearly 7 years of visiting these beaches in the winter, but these ice walls are the tallest and most shear I’ve ever seen. There is a terrible danger of a dog falling behind these ice walls. Please stay away until they have melted."

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