TRENTON - A shivering two-year-old pit bull who was stranded on a frozen patch of the Delaware River for hours Sunday is safely home with his family after being rescued by two daring dog-lovers.
Russ Miller, a former firefighter, and Ciro Silvestri, a bystander who refused advice to stay off the ice, ventured about 200 yards out into the river to reach the frightened dog as the sun was setting on a frigid day. Miller took along an ocean kayak to use for flotation if he fell in and to carry the dog back to the shore.
Keonna Wilson of Trenton rushed to the Ewing Township Animal Shelter on Sunday night after seeing a video of the rescue on 6ABC and said that the dog, Duke, belonged to her family. Duke had not received all his vaccinations and was kept overnight, Mark Phillips, the shelter manager, said Monday.
Duke was transferred to the Trenton Animal Shelter, vaccinated, and then released to the family late Monday morning, said Joe Antonello, one of the city's animal control officers. He issued Wilson a summons for allowing "the dog to run loose" after Wilson told him Duke went missing and was gone for days after she let him outside to relieve himself.
Miller, trained in ice rescues when he was a firefighter in Massachusetts two decades ago, said a friend who worked at the shelter asked him to come to the scene near the Calhoun Street Bridge.
"I had the right equipment for the job, and I'm a huge animal advocate," said Miller, of Hamilton Township, who fosters rescue dogs and currently has a St. Bernard and a pit bull. He said that he is seen as "Mr. Daredevil," but did not regard this rescue as life-threatening because he had put on a wetsuit and brought the kayak.
Miller, who sells construction equipment, said Silvestri was walking out on the ice to try to save the dog when he arrived. They worked together, he said, to rope the dog and place him into the kayak. Though the dog was disoriented, he still tried to avoid capture and had to be tied up and retrieved.
Phillips said that he was at the scene for hours and watched as a succession of efforts failed. Dozens of people lined the river banks and whistled to the dog and threw food at him when he came near the shoreline, but he kept going back onto the frozen river. At one point, Phillips said, a police officer tried turning his siren on and having a police canine dog bark into the patrol car speakers.
When the rescuers finally got the dog, they brought him back to the shelter and warmed and fed him. "He was nothing but friendly," Phillips said. "He even fell asleep on my lap."
Phillips said that it was difficult to watch the dog on the ice and the drama of the rescuers' risking their lives to save his. "But then it turned out well," he said.