SPARTA, Wis. - A dog is in safe hands after a near-death experience in an icy lake this weekend thanks to some help from a Sparta couple.
On Sunday, a couple new to the area were driving through Memorial park in Sparta on a road that doesn't get much traffic this time of year. When Karlie Hennen and Stefan Giersdorf noticed a dog stuck in the cold lake, it wasn't a question of "if" they could help him, but "how."
"I freaked out, threw the car in park. I don’t even know if we got it to a full stop,” Giersdorf said.
Hennen called for help as Giersdorf ran up to the dog with a leash.
"He really looked pain(ed), huffing and puffing,” Giersdorf said.
When the dog began to give up, Giersdorf said he started cheering for him. With a little encouragement, the dog was able to climb out on his own.
"I was going to have to jump in after this dog if he gave up and quit swimming,” Giersdorf said.
The couple took the dog, who is now called Walter, to the Monroe County Animal Shelter. They’ve been back to visit him.
"I definitely see a connection between them and the dog,” shelter manager Amber Dvorak said. “I think he absolutely knows who saved him."
“We knew that the second he got out of the ice and we saw him for the first time, he is just the sweetest thing,” Hennen said.
“He's not a pet, he's by far a companion, or a friend,” Giersdorf said.
The shelter suspects that Walter was abandoned by his owners.
Walter made it out of the lake with no major injuries. Without Giersdorf and Hennen, it could have been a much different story.
"I try not to think about those things,” Hennen said.
"Had they not driven through there, I think all the stars aligned for Walter, they were truly his saviors that day,” Dvorak said. “I think that would be an awesome end to the story if he could become a part of their family."
But right now, that ending's not written in the stars. Police told the couple that the city of Sparta only allows families to have two dogs, and they already have a full house.
But that doesn't change that they now have a new best friend.
"I think he's thankful to have met us, and I think we're more thankful to have met him,” Giersdorf said.
The animal shelter has been looking for Walter's owner, but as of Thursday night, the shelter legally owns him and will try to find him a new home.
If you're interested in adopting Walter, you can contact the Monroe County Animal Shelter by calling them at 608-269-8775, or by stopping by the shelter.
The shelter starts accepting applications for Walter this weekend, and he'll be ready to go home with his new family as early as next week.
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