Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dog-walker takes a dip through Assiniboine ice

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VANESSA Kuzina's leisurely stroll with her dog Lucy on Friday afternoon turned into an unforeseen dip in the Assiniboine River.

Kuzina fell through the ice in a slushy stretch behind homes on Wolseley Avenue between Newman and Telfer streets.

"I had been down on the river the week prior and had seen all these walking trails and people had cleared skating trails and it was beautiful down there. But with all the snow, we couldn't tell how wet it was," Kuzina said.

Around 4 p.m., Kuzina and her dog went walking on the river on what she calls one of her favourite trails.

She saw two other dogs and their owners walking in her direction and leaned to secure her rambunctious seven-month-old Blue Heeler Doberman before they got close to the other dogs.

"I reached down just to grab a hold of Lucy on her dog harness, and my left leg went through up to my hip and my right leg went up to my knee," she said.

Kuzina didn't touch the bottom and said she isn't sure how deep the Assiniboine is at that spot.

Lucy escaped the plunge and Kuzina was able to pull herself up out of the water.

"It all happened so quickly. I wasn't in the water for all that long, thankfully," said Kuzina, noting the other dog owners didn't realize she'd fallen into the river.

Kuzina said the incident was more shocking than harmful. She didn't suffer any injuries or frostbite, but her pants, long johns and boots got the worst of it.

"I couldn't get my boots off, but (using) the blow-dryer worked like a charm."

She warmed her laces until she could pry her feet out of her boots after a 1.6-kilometre walk from the river to her Minto Street home in the West End.

There weren't any cautionary thin-ice signs apparent Sunday along the stretch of river where Kuzina fell through the ice.

The Forks has yet to open its popular river trails this winter because of high, fast water in the Assiniboine, spokeswoman Chelsea Thomson told the Free Press recently.

The river has been flowing about 10 times faster than usual due to heavy drainage from the Souris River, and it's causing the water to take longer to freeze.

Kuzina, who sings and plays guitar in local bluegrass quartet Oh My Darling, said her scary experience might even warrant a song.

"You never know. Songwriters are influenced by all of our life experiences, so maybe it'll be the next Oh My Darling single," she said.

jessica.botelho-urbanski@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 6, 2014 A3

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