Fritz Ratcliff of Westerville, Ohio, and his dog, Jack, are inseparable. Ratcliff considers Jack his best friend and a support dog, and Jack — well, Jack likes to run.
“Jack has one little fault, and that’s, if he’s not hooked to you, he — pew — gone, he will bolt,” Ratcliff told WBNS-TV in Columbus.
And as the two were out for a jaunt on Jan. 19 at Brooksedge Park’s “Bark Park,” Jack did just that.
Ratcliff quickly got into his Jeep to track down the wayward pup and spotted him standing in the middle of a frozen pond. His heart sank as Jack broke through the ice and struggled in the frigid water.
“Just out of the corner of my eye, oh no, he is dead center in the middle of this lake, he broke through the ice, and he couldn’t get out,” Ratcliff said. “I ran down and went in. Just like that. The ice didn’t support me any more than it did him.”
Thinking only of rescuing his four-legged friend, Ratcliff himself was soon in trouble. Jack was going stiff from the cold, and Ratcliff started yelling for help.
“I remember thinking, this is it, this is … where I’m going to die,” he said. “This is it. Just like that. I just, I knew it. This is it.”
Thankfully, two men had seen the whole thing as it unfolded.
William Robinson and Arturo Avila, movers with Premier Office Movers, saw Ratcliff struggling with the dog.
“We were coming down the street, and this gentleman pulls out of a driveway and he pulls right in front of me, sort of cattywampus, parks his vehicle, jumps out of his vehicle and runs towards the pond,” Robinson said told WBNS.
While Avila grabbed straps from the back of their truck, Robinson called 911.
“We got a drowning dog,” he told the dispatcher. “We just had a gentleman jump in the water, try to save the dog, and I think he’s almost drowning.”
Ratcliff got close to the edge of the pond, and the movers were able to help drag him out. They put the dog back in the car, and they covered Ratcliff with moving blankets.
“Probably would have froze to death,” Ratcliff admitted. “Because I couldn’t, I couldn’t walk. Jack had been in the water so long, he was just laying on his side next to me.”
Westerville Police arrived a short while later, and Ratcliff found himself explaining the situation to the officer.
“He was in the water, and he couldn’t get out,” he said. “And he’s my best friend. I wasn’t going to let him drown, so I just jumped.”
After being checked out on the scene by a medic, Ratcliff was released to go back home with Jack.
He’s thankful for the intervention of his two heroes, even though they left before he could catch their names.
“I don’t know who they are, but I’m grateful that they were there,” Ratcliff said. “I’d just tell them, you know, thank you so much for stopping.”
The City of Westerville is planning to recognize Avila and Robinson with a civilian award at an upcoming meeting.
“Nobody else cared, they just kept going around,” Avila said. “I figure like, maybe for being nosy, we saved somebody’s lives.”
“What more can you say, you know, it’s just one of those things that happened, and everybody came out on top,” Robinson added.
“Everybody won that day. That’s something you don’t hear or see too often, but I think that day we were all winners.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.