“I stripped down to my boxer briefs, took off my uniform and my hat and everything, and left my socks on.”
It was a busy day just a few weeks before Christmas when Ryan Arens, a deliveryman for UPS, was out delivering packages in Bozeman, Montana.
Despite his full schedule, all was mostly normal until Arens heard a strange sound.
“It was like a kind of cry for help,” Arens said, “but I couldn’t really see what was going on.”
He was circling a pond in his truck when he got a better view. There was a layer of thin ice on the pond and something dark floating in the center of it.
“I got out of my truck,” Arens said, “and then I saw a dog in the pond.”
It wasn’t the coldest it could have been — it was in the 30s — but Arens, having a dog of his own, knew that there was something wrong. There was no way a dog should be out swimming in that weather.
“Then I saw she was clinging to the ice,” Arens said. And he heard that sound again: It was the dog screaming for help.
Arens ran over.
“My heart was thumping,” he said. “I got a little scared and nervous knowing that I was probably going to do something stupid.”
A few people had gathered, and one older man was out on a small paddle boat trying to slide closer to the dog.
“I stripped down to my boxer briefs, took off my uniform and my hat and everything, and left my socks on knowing how sharp ice can be,” Arens said.
Then Arens got into the boat and tried to distribute his weight so that the ice wouldn’t crack from under him as he made his way closer to the dog.
“I could see through the ice now because it was really thin,” he said, “and I could see three-quarters of the dog’s body was underwater — just her head was up and barely out of the water.”
Then Arens got out of the boat, holding onto it with one hand and trying to reach the dog with the other, all while balancing on the thin ice.
“My biggest fear was falling through the ice and not being able to get out,” he said.
Sure enough, the ice broke.
“I went down, and at that point, I just swam out to the dog and grabbed her collar — thank God she had a collar on — and swam back to the ice,” Arens said.
He put the dog in the boat and slid it back to shore, where the neighbors gathered. “A lady who was there handed me a blanket and I just wrapped it around the dog,” Arens said.
The dog couldn’t stand up her legs were so numb — and she was clearly in shock. The group of people rushed her back to one of the neighbors’ houses.
“One of the neighbors had a wood stove going and so we went over there to warm up,” Arens said. “He went into the bathroom and got the warm water going and I carried her in there, and I knelt down, holding her up so he could get the warm water on her belly.”
Thankfully, the man was a retired veterinarian who knew just what to do. He checked the dog’s body temperature and realized that if Arens hadn’t done what he did, the dog would probably have had a heart attack if she’d stayed in the water just a few moments longer.
Meanwhile, the dog’s owner was looking everywhere for her. As it turned out, he lived just a few blocks away and the dog, Sadie, had been playing with a neighbor’s dog when she ran off.
“There were duck decoys floating in the pond and I’m guessing she was curious about them and that’s how she got into the situation,” Arens said.
When Sadie’s person heard a dog was in the house, he arrived in a panic and was so relieved to be reunited with his dog.
During the chaos of the reunion, Arens, still in his boxer briefs, slipped out the back. He got the change of clothes he keeps in his truck — sometimes the truck can break down in winter so it’s always good to have extra layers — and he went on his way.
“My legs were all scraped up from the ice and my feet were all cut up even through my socks, but I put my uniform on and went along my route,” he said. “I had about 20 more stops.”
The next day, Arens was out making deliveries again when he came upon a house near where he’d rescued Sadie. He noticed the man was making his way to the truck in the driveway, and then he saw Sadie in the car.
“She was in his vehicle and she saw me coming down the driveway and she just went crazy,” Arens laughed. “The man said, ‘Thank you so much, I never really got a chance to thank you.’ And then he said, ‘Would you like to meet Sadie?’ And I said, ‘I would love to meet Sadie.'”
That’s how Arens got to take a photo with Sadie so he could always remember that day he saved her.
Arens has been working as a UPS driver for over a decade, and considers the dogs he gets to meet along his route a perk of the job. And even if he met Sadie in a more dramatic way than the others, he has no regrets.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” he said. “I love animals.”