“Best Christmas present ever!”

“Best Christmas present ever!”
Gaïa enjoys a cozy Christmas Day after her chilly ordeal in Massawippi Lake (Photo : Courtesy)

Local dog rescued after falling through ice

By William Crooks

Local Journalism Initiative
In a heartwarming tale of survival fitting for the holiday spirit, Akli Ait-Eldjoudi, a local dog-owner, received the “best Christmas present ever!” after his dog, Gaïa, was dramatically rescued from the icy grip of Massawippi Lake. A cheerful Christmas Day was the reward for both the dog and her family following Gaïa’s ill-fated chase after ducks that led her 50 meters from shore, where the ice betrayed her. The quick response and bravery of local firefighters, dubbed “guardian angels” by Ait-Eldjoudi, turned a chilling incident into a timely reminder of the perils of thin ice and the importance of ice safety.


Gaïa on thin ice

“I was in the middle of touring Estrie with my parents,” Ait-Eldjoudi said, “and we stopped for two seconds in Ayer’s Cliff.” He opened the car door to let Gaïa stretch her legs. The second she was free, she bolted.

Ait-Eldjoudi had not seen the ducks out on Massawippi Lake, but Gaïa had. She chased them out on the frozen waters, getting as far as 50 meters from shore. Then, she went through the ice. “I was very upset!” he admitted.

Gaïa tried to climb back out of the water onto the ice, but it kept breaking under her weight. There was no way Ait-Eldjoudi could save her safely himself, so he called 9-1-1. “They understood the gravity of the situation,” he recounted.

It took around 30 minutes for the firefighters to arrive. During that time, he kept speaking to Gaïa to reassure her. Towards the end of their wait, she started wailing in a way he had never heard before. “I’m hurting! I’m going to die!” he took it to mean. They had tried to get help from neighbouring houses, but all the boats were stowed away for the winter.

The firefighters, after reassuring him everything would be okay, placed their own rescue boat on the water and progressively broke the ice in front of them as they made their way out to where Gaïa was stranded. They pulled her out of the water and brought her back to shore, after which she spent 15 minutes in their truck, wrapped in blankets, to warm up.

It was Christmas Day and Ait-Eldjoudi and his family took Gaïa home and had fun with her and opened presents. “We never would have celebrated Christmas,” he said, if things had worked out for the worse.

Ait-Eldjoudi emphasized that people must be cautious concerning thin ice. “Don’t take any risks,” he urged. During the ordeal it was the worst he had ever felt, he was totally powerless. “There was nothing I could do. It was horrible.”

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