Charlottetown man takes icy plunge to save dog

Stephen Cudmore is quick to share praise in rescue of black lab

Jim Day
Published on January 23, 2014

Stephen Cudmore of Charlottetown enjoys a visit Thursday from Pace, an 11-year-old black lab. Cudmore jumped waist high in to frigid water Tuesday to rescue the dog after it had fallen through the ice and could not get out.

©Guardian photo by Jim Day

Stephen Cudmore is the clear hero in this chilling dog rescue.

Yet the humble 49-year-old financial advisor is quick to deflect praise in what he views as a concerted effort to save Pace, an 11-year-old black lab.

Cudmore notes the family’s pet — a Portuguese water dog named Levi — was key to setting the rescue in motion.

On Tuesday afternoon, Levi started barking “in a very unusual way’’ inside the Cudmore home on Queen Elizabeth Drive in Charlottetown.

Cudmore’s daughter, Makena, 12, could see Levi was agitated and eager to get outside. So she went out into the backyard with the dog. Levi started yapping back and forth with another dog that was out of view.

Makena investigated. She came upon Pace in peril. The dog had fallen through the ice on the North River and could not get out. She rushed back into the house and called her father at his workplace.

“She was clearly very upset,’’ recalls Stephen. “I said ‘just hang on and I will be right there.’’’

When Stephen arrived at the icy scene, Pace appeared “just physically exhausted...and totally incapable of struggling anymore.’’

Stephen jumped into the cold, waist high water and hoisted Pace out. That was the easy part.

He then carried the soaking wet, 75-pound animal that had a collar of ice around its neck several hundred feet, navigating his way over large rocks and up an embankment on a day with a windchill hovering down around -23 C.

“All I know is it felt like a long way,’’ says Stephen. “I had to take a break half way across the yard.’’

A second daughter, Macy, gathered up blankets to cover the dog.

Stephen got changed and went out looking for Ralph, a border collie that is Pace’s long-time companion.

Ralph apparently had been trying to beckon help.

Ann MacNeill, who owns Ralph and Pace, says Ralph had returned to the home of MacNeill’s parents, where the pair of dogs often roam in the back yard.

MacNeill says Ralph was acting very strangely.

“She kept going back to the door and looking at them (MacNeill’s parents)...she knew there was something wrong,’’ she says.

Fortunately, Stephen had come to the rescue.

“Very selfless thing to do,’’ says MacNeill. “We are forever thankful for what he did for us.’’

Remarkably, Pace has emerged from the cold, potentially deadly mishap relatively unscathed. A team at the Charlottetown Veterinary Clinic worked to get the dog’s core temperature up and circulation going through the use of heating pads, warm blankets, even a blowdryer, and plenty of rubbing.

“Pace is great,’’ says MacNeill. “He was very, very tired that night. He did not move off the couch for a long time...(but) no after effects whatsoever.’’

On Thursday, Pace was bounding happily outside for a photo shot with his rescuer, Stephen Cudmore.

Stephen, who has never taken part in the traditional New Year’s Day celebratory Polar Bear dip, thought nothing of taking an icy plunge to save Pace. He says any short-term discomfort he experienced was inconsequential.

“I’ve done the Black lab swim and that may do just fine,’’ he quipped. “I’m sure the people that do the Polar Bear swim don’t have the same motivation (to plunge into icy cold water).’’

Helping save the life of a beloved pet, he notes, feels great. However, he would rather give, than receive, praise.

“I’m pretty proud of my daughters and pretty proud of my dog,’’ he says. “My job was fairly simple.’’