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WINTER DANGERS FOR PETS: Thin Ice, Coyotes, & Plows

Over her many years of practicing veterinary medicine in Groton, Dr. Susan Horowitz, owner of the Groton Veterinary Hospital, has heard frequent, heart-wrenching stories of beloved pets disappearing without a trace, during the winter season. For many years, these disappearances were unexplainable mysteries. But Dr. Horowitz now believes she knows the fates of so many animals that have vanished over the years.

In her view, most of these animals ventured onto ice on the many lakes or rivers in Groton, fell through, drowned and were never heard of or seen again, leaving their owners in misery. Rena Sweezy, town assessor and long-time resident of Lost Lake, confirmed Dr. Horowitz's theory, recalling the winter her daughter lost a dog to drowning after the animal ventured onto ice on the Lake, fell in and drowned. Rena recalled the family trauma of finding the animal's body floating at the Lake's edge, later in the season. In a later incident, Rena said another family dog fell into the lake through the ice, with her daughter screaming and stumbling into the frozen water, breaking the ice with her hands, reaching the dog, and pulling it out by its scruff--endangering herself along with the dog.

Dr. Horowitz fears owners don't fully comprehend the hazards of allowing their pets to roam free, unattended. She said many pet owners believe that cats and dogs need time to 'express their wild nature' by roaming free. From her perspective this is a romantic, anthropomorphic fallacy. She asks, "A parent wouldn't let their child play in traffic, so why would they put their pet in harms way?" She wants pet owners to understand the dangers their animals face if allowed to roam unattended and unleashed--unprotect from the fates of many previous generations of pets.

Most pet owners, she says, consider leash laws to be a ridiculous societal imposition, but from her perspective, the "greatest beneficiary of leash laws are the animals on the leash because they are protected from traffic, shooting and drowning."

She offered a recent example, further convincing her of the validity of this assumption. On a late Friday afternoon this winter, the Fire Department rushed a family and their dog, a tiny, 20-pound mixed breed terrier, to Dr. Horowitz' hospital on Lowell road. The family had been walking the little dog along pathways next to the river in Groton Place.

The dog was off the leash, just walking with the family along the path by the river when it decided to walk out on the ice despite commands and entreaties from the family to come back. The dog fell into the river and was dragged along by the current. The daughter wadded into the river, trying to save the dog. Finally, a passerby was able to pull the little dog, a Terrier mix named Bela, out of the river. The fire department was called. They wrapped the dog in blankets and gave it oxygen, said an approving Dr. Horowitz, and brought family and dog to her late on a Friday afternoon.

After she stabilized the little dog, it was transferred to the emergency room at the Westford Veterinary hospital. According to Dr. Horowitz, the animal did well for about 24 hours but ultimately died on Monday because her breathing system had been compromised by hyperthermia.

Thin Ice, Coyotes, and Plows

Dr. Horowitz feels that Groton Place, at the foot of Long Hill Road, is especially dangerous for dogs because so many people, especially people from out of town, use the property to exercise their dogs; they don't, she says, understand the dangers to dogs presented by the Nashua River. Groton Place property runs along the Nashua River, abutting the Groton School property.

Among other unanticipated winter dangers to pets are coyotes. Tom Delaney, DPW director and animal officer said the coyote population in town 'has never been so high' and presents particular danger to cats and small dogs wandering in the woodland periphery near houses, especially in semi-remote areas where coyotes can easily prey on pets. Delaney recalled seeing a small collar in the snow in a very remote area, far from any residences, probably all that remained of a cat or small dog carried away from its own back yard.

A perhaps more unlikely threat is winter snow plowing. In a terribly sad recent incident, a local man, an independent snowplow operator, returned to a home he had plowed for a final 'clean up'. The homeowner had let his dogs out into the plowed driveway to exercise.

The driver saw one small dog sitting up on the porch, not realizing that there was not one, but two dogs of the same size and coloring. Sadly, one of the two dogs was in the driveway unseen. As he was backing up, he accidently ran over the animal, killing it. This man truly loves and cares about animals, so killing the dog was terribly traumatic experience for him and the pet's owner.

We urge all pet owners to please heed Dr. Horowtiz' advice and watch for special dangers to pets during the winter months.

Groton Herald

Mailing Address
P.O. Box 610, Groton, Massachusetts 01450

145 Main Street, Groton, Massachusetts 014510
[Prescott Community Center]

Telephone: 978-448-6061

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