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Dog survives plunge into icy Fox River

(H. Rick Bamman –
Rhodesian ridgeback-boxer mix Penny and owner John Barratt relax Thursday in their Fox Lake home. Penny jumped off a McHenry bridge near Riverside Drive and Pearl Street on Wednesday, more than five days after she went missing.

FOX LAKE – Seeing no alternative, Penny the pooch leaped from a McHenry bridge to the icy Fox River below Wednesday – and survived.

The Rhodesian ridgeback-boxer had been missing from a Ringwood home for more than five days when she found herself on the bridge near Riverside Drive and Pearl Street.

With the help of bystanders and rescuers, the year-old dog was saved from the icy waters of the Fox River. She has a few bumps and bruises to remember her big splash.

“Considering what happened, I can’t believe that she is alive,” said John Barratt, who adopted the dog a month ago from a shelter in southern Illinois. “She has already lived such a hard life. I’m so grateful to have her back.”

Penny went missing Friday after jumping a chain-link fence in the yard of Barratt’s brother, where she was staying while her owner was out of town.

When Barratt returned home to Fox Lake and found out she was missing, Barratt placed hundreds of lost dog fliers throughout the area. He was putting up more fliers when he received the call Wednesday morning that Penny had been found.

Authorities were able to identify Barratt as Penny’s owner because the dog had a microchip.

“She hadn’t eaten or slept in five days, and spent all that time in the cold weather,” Barratt said. “I’m thankful beyond words that she is all right.”

Although Penny spent about 20 minutes in the river, she did not suffer from hypothermia.

However, she did suffer injuries to her legs and underbelly from the fall onto the ice, and one of her eyes is swollen shut.

James Thomas was driving on Route 120 on Wednesday morning when he saw a dog running in the middle of the heavily traveled road. The McHenry resident opened the door of his vehicle and slowly followed Penny, trying to divert her to a safer area.

He followed her north on Riverside Drive before she turned east onto the bridge at Pearl Street near Vickie’s Place.

“A truck was coming in the opposite direction, and we thought she had nowhere to go,” Thomas said. “She just climbed the barrier and jumped right in.”

Thomas called police about 9 a.m. as he and others worked their way on foot to a pier near where Penny was desperately trying to make her way out of the water. But they were unable to pull her out because the ice continued to crack.

Members of the McHenry Police Department, McHenry Township Fire Protection District and McHenry County Animal Control arrived, and firefighters were able to pull Penny out of the water with an extended snare.

Thomas wrapped a hooded sweatshirt around the dog and warmed her up in his car before taking her to the police station.

“Who knows what would have happened had she kept roaming the streets?” Thomas said. “I couldn’t let a dog die.”

Penny is expected to make a full recovery.

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