This is a story told to my mom by the mother of my Fox Terrier buddies Toby and Lucy.  Their mom is named Tina.

Lake Erie is a vast, cold lake covering 9,940 square miles between the US and Canada.  During the winter, during especially cold winters, the lake will freeze.  Being that it’s 62 feet at its deepest, it isn’t often that the whole lake is completely frozen, so winter explorers have to be careful.  It isn’t unusual for snowmobile-rs and ice fishermen to become stranded on an ice floe, or even fall through cracked ice.

Tina used to live on the shore of Lake Erie and would often walk out onto the frozen lake with her dog, Otto.  Otto was a great big German Sheppard with a soft brown coat of thick fur.  He was a good dog.  He’d wander the neighborhood while Tina was away at work, but always returned home by the time she arrived home.  In the summer time they would go out in the boat together or fish from the dock at their lake.

One afternoon Tina and Otto set off across the ice for what was, for them, a typical walk.  The weather had been fine; not brutally cold, nor especially warm.  Typical grey clouds created a low ceiling overhead, but otherwise the weather was perfect for a stroll.

Suddenly the ice cracked under Tina’s feet.  Otto immediately dropped to his belly and slid backwards, pushing with his front paws across the ice.  Tina stood stock still, watching him until he finally got back up on four paws.  Taking her cue from Otto, Tina slid her feet backward, slowly, along the ice until she too was on a safer surface.

Otto was a pretty smart dog, and he probably saved both their lives that day, by simply following his instincts– instincts humans are sometimes aren’t smart enough to take much heed of.