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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I couldn't just watch Bentley die: Dog owner who inched across ice to save pet explains his 'reckless' act

By Claire Ellicott

Safe: Bentley back home in the warm with Mr Jarvis

His desperate rescue mission to save his dog from a frozen river was seen around the world after a passer-by photographed the drama.

Stripped to his underpants, Malcolm Jarvis crawled out on the ice and then fell through, before managing to save both himself and Bentley the Jack Russell.

Yesterday the 48-year-old company director bowed to critics who said the venture – which came only a week after another man had died trying to save his dog from a freezing lake – had been a silly thing to do.

Danger mission: Mr Jarvis, in just his underpants, crawls across the frozen river to Bentley, circled

But he said he could not just sit back and watch four-year-old Bentley drown.

And his family revealed that far from being grateful for being saved, Bentley was disappointed that his walk had finished so early.

Mr Jarvis had been strolling by the Stour in Dedham, Essex, with his wife, two daughters and their dog on Sunday. The family said the temperature was about -4c (25f).
They were a few minutes into their walk when Bentley spotted some ducks and chased after them on to the frozen river, despite the family’s shouts.

They watched in horror as he plunged through the ice, which was three or four inches thick, and bobbed back up in the water, trying to pull himself back on to the ice.

Loving family: Mr Jarvis with daughter Hannah, 13, and wife Rachel, 46

Instinct: Mr Jarvis said that when Bentley fell in adrenaline took over and he set about rescuing him
Mr Jarvis said: ‘He was desperately trying to scramble back on to it, but he couldn’t pull himself up.

‘We were watching his little head sink lower and lower in the water and he was getting tired and slowing down because of the cold. I was thinking, “We’re going to lose the dog – he’s going to die”. I couldn’t let that happen.

‘Then the adrenaline kicked in and I knew I had to make a decision and my gut instinct was to rescue him. Any dog owner would do the same.

‘I was wearing jeans and I didn’t want to go in the water with them. So I stripped down to my underpants.

‘I edged out and was flat on the ice so I could get as close as possible. But the ice wasn’t that thick and gave way when I was ten feet away and I fell into the water. I don’t remember the shock of the cold: I think the adrenaline had prepared my body for it.

Great escape: When Bentley was hoisted to safety Mr Jarvis said he was 'shivering but fine'

‘I just grabbed Bentley by the scruff of the neck and hoisted him back on to the ice. I then dragged myself out.’

He said Bentley ran straight to his wife, Rachel, 46, and their daughters Rebecca, 19, and Hannah, 13, and the first thing they did was put him back on the lead. He was shivering but was fine.

His rescuer was covered in cuts from the cracked ice, but dried himself off and the family drove straight home without phoning the emergency services.

Mr Jarvis, who owns an IT company, estimated the river was about 15ft deep and about 20ft wide. ‘I know it seems reckless,’ he said, ‘but it looked possible. With hindsight, it was dangerous as we knew nothing about the ice and how cold it was. But there was no way Bentley would have survived if we’d called the emergency services. He’d have drowned by the time they arrived.’

The family, from Bradfield, Essex, has now vowed to keep Bentley on the lead at all times and warned other dog owners to do the same.

Essex fire service said Mr Jarvis’s actions were ‘extremely dangerous’, while Paul Wenborne, who took the photo of Mr Jarvis in his underwear, described it as a ‘foolish act of bravery’. But Mrs Jarvis, a teacher, said: ‘When you don’t own a dog, you just think “crazy dog people”, but they are a part of the family. Some may criticise and some may call him a hero. He’s definitely our hero.’

Classic car enthusiast Tim Waddingham drowned while trying to rescue his dog from a freezing lake on February 5. The body of the 53-year-old, from Rudgwick, West Sussex, was pulled from the lake at a golf club in nearby Cranleigh. His dog was found alive.



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