Everyone is pleased that Cooper the Golden Doodle was rescued over the weekend from the icy Charles River near Elm Bank Reservation, and the Wellesley police and firefighters have been roundly congratulated. PETA even doled out a Compassionate Fire Department Award to the Wellesley Fire Department.
But the incident did prompt some to urge dog owners to leash their pets, especially around the water, and some raised questions about the cost of such rescues to the town (One wrote on our Facebook page: “Maybe the town should start sending bills to people who don’t use a leash.”).
Kathy Macdonald, president of MassHort (which has its headquarters at Elm Bank), said she was thrilled that fire and police teams have been able to rescue dogs, though expressed concern for the safety of the personnel. She also called such incidents “completely avoidable,” and emphasized that “this entire State property (182 acres) has a leash law, which dog walkers ignore.” Dogs are actually banned on the interior 34 acres of MassHort’s property, but pooches have clearly been making their marks there this winter as anyone who has traversed the formerly white snow can see.
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has been asked to get a ranger to Elm Bank to issue fines to owners of off-leash dogs.
We followed up with the Wellesley Police and Fire Departments to put a dollar figure on the cost of rescuing pups in distress. Apparently this isn’t analogous to clueless hikers calling to be rescued and paying a price for it though.
Wellesley Fire Chief Rick DeLorie says the town bore no additional cost for the rescue, as on-duty personnel responded.
“I view this as an opportunity to test our skills in real time as opposed to a drill during training. Saving the family pet is significantly less stressful than working to save a person in jeopardy,” DeLorie says. “The firefighters are well trained and have the proper gear to conduct this rescue as a very low risk operation. The fire department has no worries and actually very pleased about coming to the aid of any residents, even the furry ones.”
Police Chief Terry Cunningham echoed DeLorie’s comment that no additional resources beyond the staff working were required for the rescue, so the effort didn’t cost the town anything.
While 99.9% of Elm Bank is Dover property and therefore Wellesley doesn’t actually have regular animal control enforcement authority there, the Wellesley Police Department last month did issue a video urging visitors to avoid unsafe ice conditions at Elm Bank and on the Charles River. Unfortunately, though, an off-leash puppy recently did get swallowed by the Charles after breaking through the ice, Cunningham said.
Wellesley Police recently asked the DCR to put up some signs to warn park visitors of the dangers. Cunningham said he would also like to see the DCR put up some orange snow fencing since “it is very difficult between the ice and the snow to discern exactly where the water is.”
One more word on the whole topic comes from Tucker, Wellesley’s favorite blogging dog. He recommends that the Town consider converting part of the North 40 into a park where dogs can run free — safely. “Just thought I’d weigh in —all 87.7 lbs. of me — before the going gets tough on exactly what is going in, or on, the North 40 property. And what a cure for winter weight that would be—a fenced place to gallop around and meet up with some friends.”