93-year-old Vermont man dies in icy pond trying to save his dog

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In Chittenden, Vermont, a 93-year-old resident of Rutledge died on Saturday afternoon trying to save his dog from an icy pond. According to an official report by the Vermont State Police, Detective Trooper Pfindel stated William R. Graf died when he ventured out onto the ice at Leffert’s Pond off Wildcat Road after his dog fell through the ice.

A witness stated Mr. Graf was unable to get out of the water.  Police stated the dog also died. An autopsy is pending.

In a similar tragedy, an Oklahoma man drowned in January trying to save his dog who fell through thin ice on a pond.  Tanner Shorter, 22, had been out duck hunting with a group of friends in Stephens County when the accident took place. Shorter’s dog ran onto the thin ice to retrieve a bird and apparently fell through the ice – Shorter immediately tried to rescue his companion, but died in the process.

So what do you do if your dog falls through the ice?

First of all, always keep your dog on a leash. If you didn’t heed that warning, experts strongly urge pet owners to take the following steps:

  • Call 911. Wait for fire rescue
  • Do not go onto the ice after your dog. If the ice didn’t support your dog, it’s surely not going to support a human
  • Let the rescue workers do their job
  • Don’t repeat the mistake and keep your dog on a leash in the future

Rest in peace Mr. Graf.

(Photo of Vermont State Police report man died in icy pond via Facebook)

Follow the National Dog Rescue on Facebook.


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    • ok,
      they will not like this advice but we all know most of us here will not watch a child of a pet struglge to stay above ice water.
      you get a long long stick ( we used to skate on ponds on long island, we took our hocky sticks because we did fall thru ice)
      you get on your stomack, you shimmy with the stick in front of you.
      You must be flat with arms stretched in front of you. you will be able to get closer to the ice break .
      you will break thru the ice but the stick will keep your chest and sholders above ice water.
      with one arm you grab your loved one. and put them above the ice have them lay flat. as ice around you brealk keep the stick horizontal almost under your chin the ice will break but you will eventally find hard ice.
      You will eventally be on slightly thicker a dog will walk back but a kid instruck to lay flat and shimmy to the shore. he will not panic because he can see what he has to do.
      eventally you will find ice not breaking under your waight
      with all your might and upper body strenth try and lift your self out.
      you will be on hard ice and can walk. you hace 3-10 mins. keep your head. its been done since cave man time.

      Hopeing you are not alone, emergency help should arrive.
      if mot you have to force your self to walk or run.
      This is old school survival.I would like all of you to know it.
      Dont tell any one i told you.

      • We carry rope, folding saw , knife, blankets, dryer lint, used fabric softner, lighter torch, for starting a fire..in our UTV also extra blankets, jackets, gloves , and we a very cautious ,,, In fact I am getting a life jacket I can wear on the streams, and smaller mountain lakes we fish in the mountains in our state for brook trout. Good advice always comes in handy … Thanks

  2. You see your companion go through the ice and your first reaction is to save your dog at 93 I’m sure he did the first thing that came to his mind. So sorry for Mr Graf’s family. He went to heaven with his precious dog, may they rest in peace.

    • So well said. It is very apparent Mr. Graf loved his dog – and all us animal lovers understand why he did what he did. They are together.

    • oh my god yes ! penny d.
      A note to linda first. this dog was never leashed. 93 year olds never walk with a leash . they are too unstable.
      but i also got the vision penny, vividly. for time now the dog watched his gardian become unsteady . the dog would look up with sadness and great concern. and the man seeing this would smile and stroke his head and coo, dont wooorry. these words and universal emotions are often communicated between human and pet and this is a perfact example of the phonomon.They would comfort each other in the deep night and early morning hours. The dog was sad and concerned and communicated his concerned with prolonged staring deep in the mans soul and the man would draw him close to him and coo dont woorry….they promised they would never leave one another behind. this became a repeated joke that would upset the family. Then the man would chuckle look down at his dog the dog would give that goofy drop jaw tounge hanging out smile (you know the look).

      But i do believe some of us know what is happaning here. this dog is the companion that was ment to, destined to bring him to the home of his passed on ancestors.
      On the day of the ice break the man hobbled out to his dog . he fell thru the ice and they strugled to reach one another and the mans heart stopped.

      Momments later they opened there eyes together on the shore. they watched as people gathered in pannic horror and helplessness. The man looked down at his side and the dog looked down and away fully relized what has happened ( you know that sweet contriat guilty look) the man pulled him closely to him and the dog looked sadly in his eyes and wailed im sorry…..
      And the man stroked his head held the dogs face looked deeply into his dogs eyes and cooood,
      Dont wooorrrry! then they walked home togther, the dog barking and prancing and jumping for joy and circling around his man. Bouncing and running away and coming back and jumping infront of him with the big goofy smile.
      and the man smiled and said,
      (good dog!!)

  3. I’m so sorry this happened. My heart goes out to the family. For me it would be easier said than done to stand there and wait for help while my dog is drowning. I’m afraid I would have done the same thing…..

  4. Condolences to Mr. Graf’s family and RIP to his dog. I can’t stress enough never allow your dog to be off the leash, however, we don’t know how this dog was freed from the owner’s grip.

  5. OMG! How awful and tragic! I always have my three leashed when we are not in our yard,but unfortunately if I saw one of my fur babies fall thru ice I would instantly react and attempt to save them. Best to cal 911 BEFORE doing anything including going out after my dog. Alas, I don’t know if I could wait long enough for help to arrive without doing something to save my baby!!

  6. I do not believe I will call or wait for help. First instinct is always to save the one you love so I probably will dive in and try. I might die in the process but I am sure my dog would have done the same for me.

  7. I personally do not understand why people REFUSE to have their pets on leashes. IT IS FOR THEIR safety as much as yours!! If they want to run…, go to a dog park that is fenced in and safe. No excuse for an animal to lose it’s life or a human just because you wouldn’t use a leash.
    This is just a horrible, senseless tragedy.

  8. What many may not know is that William Graf, was Dr. William Graf, an excellent and well-loved veterinarian for over 50 years in Pennsylvania before retiring in Vermont. He had always been in excellent physical shape, running marathons into his 70’s. He always went above and beyond for any animal in his care. He gave generously to many who could not afford care for their pets and there is no doubt in my mind that his love for GiGi caused him to try to save her. He never gave up on any animal, I witnessed it firsthand, as I worked for him for over a decade. He also found many wonderful, loving homes for homeless animals. None of us know exactly what went through his mind in those last moments, but what I do know is that he dearly loved his dog, and he would have done anything to try to save her… just as I witnessed him do as many, many times over for all those who were his clients’ and not his own. Dr. Graf was very physically active and walked this area with his dog daily. This was a terrible tragedy of difficult circumstances on this day. If you had the great opportunity to know him, even at 93, he was in amazing physical shape for his age and you’d know that Dr. Graf’s love for his beloved GiGi caused him to do whatever he could to try to save her. There are always things that we can learn and do better in life, but I wanted to at least mention what a wonderful veterinarian he was. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he acted out of love for GiGi in those last moments, even as he did so many times over the 50+ years when he gave excellent care to so many people’s beloved pets. <3

    • Thank you for writing this. It breaks my heart that the world has lost such a wonderful man. I know he and his GiGi are together, may God bless them.

      • Thank you, it’s so difficult to even realize that this happened to this great and giving man and his beloved GiGi. I know he also did have and use a leash for her, I am unaware of the particular circumstances that day. Certainly, they must be now enjoying an even better life together. Amen, may God bless him, his family and all of his loved ones, including their pets. Dr. Graf inspired so many during his time here on earth.


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