A few years back, I fell through the ice in January. My trusty Labrador, Hudson, fell through while chasing a Wood Duck across the frozen surface of the Sauble River.

They say a dog will always find a way out of the hole and back to land, but this is my dog we’re talking about. He’s carrying a bit of a spare tire, if you catch my drift. Reluctantly, I disrobed from my parka and walked onto the ice to get him.

Smart. S. M. R. T.

Inevitably, I found myself chest-deep in frigid black river water immediately hyper-ventilating. The current of the water under the surface was so strong it swept my feet forward, kicking the ice in front of me. A quick holler back to shore at my already hysterical wife meant to articulate the calm and optimistic words “Dear, I think perhaps you should go get some help,” instead became a rather frantic “HELP!” adding very little zen to the situation.


Somehow, I managed to turn back ‘round and kick my legs above the surface, log-rolled the 20-some feet to the dog, pulled him out of his hole, and rolled myself back to land. We were very lucky.

On the long walk back to the car down a trail, I was doing jumping jacks, high kicks, anything to keep my blood flowing. We darted back to town and I hopped in the tub to help my body reclaim its lost temperature.

As I’m sitting there I remember thinking, ‘I’d do it again for that dog.’ I think I’d do it for anyone, really. I truly believe the vast majority of us would. The desire to help others, regardless of how daft they are for chasing ducks, is strong in most people. Whether you’re risking your safety, or picking up the tab on someone’s morning coffee behind you at the drive-thru, the instinct to be good – whatever that means to you – is strong in the human race.

This happened at a time in my life when we had just moved back to OS after being away for the better part of a decade at post secondary school. If we hadn’t come back, I certainly wouldn’t have fallen through the ice – but in a weird way, I’m kind of happy that happened to me. Being back here that winter helped me learn a profound lesson.

Maybe I was just more open to it, but in the weeks and months that followed I noticed more people holding doors open for one another, people helping their neighbours shovel snow; that new year spring was in their step. I’m forever grateful for seeing that spirit in my community.

This is a place that’s always been about helping one another – regardless of how thin the ice is.

Written by Nelson Phillips