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Search for beloved lab ends tragically but offers closure

This was Pete Tuomisto's heart-wrenching search for his dog. Digger apparently fell through the ice in December chasing muskrats. Pete was drilling holes and using his underwater camera to find his beloved black lab. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Readers may recall a Dock Talk column a few months ago about Pete Tuomisto, a Blue Lake resident whose black lab, Digger, was missing. December 3 was actually the last day Pete had seen Digger, and he feared the dog may have fallen through the thin ice in front of his home.

I had actually run into Pete while on an afternoon fishing trip on Blue Lake and couldn't help but wonder why he was drilling so many holes within such a confined area. After finally walking over to check it out, found that Tuomisto was using the holes for an underwater camera in an attempt to locate the dog.

Tuomisto surmised that 8-year-old Digger ventured onto the thin ice to inspect some muskrats playing near a small patch of open water. Not long after Digger disappeared and the ice thickened, Tuomisto carefully shuffled out and could see a much larger area that had been broken through with chunks of ice around the perimeter, indicating something had fallen in and tried to get out of the frigid water.

Yet the Tuomisto family didn't give up hope. They investigated leads offered by others who had seen animals fitting Digger's description. Yet Digger's whereabouts remained unknown - until this past week.

Tuesday night Pete called me to say that he had found Digger. Unfortunately, he was correct in the assumption that Digger had fallen through the ice. "My wife looked out the window with the binoculars and could see a black spot on the lake," said Tuomisto. "It was Digger".

Just as dark objects quickly melt through the rapidly thinning lake ice during spring, Digger's dark coat attracted sunlight from the underside of the ice, eventually exposing a black spot against the ice sheet's light appearance for the Tuomistos to see. With the help of a pair of waders, Pete extracted Digger from the lake.

Although the Tuomisto's are saddened by Digger's ill fate, the discovery brings closure for the family, who respectfully laid Digger to rest this past week.

Pete hopes his experience will help other animal owners who live close to lakes or ponds prevent such an unfortunate experience by kenneling their pets this spring and next fall as thin ice covers our lakes.

While on the subject of dogs, spring becomes an interesting time for the animals as they examine emerging wildlife. Our two dogs, Angus, a lab/shepherd mix and Pedro, a rat terrier, learned a few lessons about other animals this past week.

First, Angus and Pedro came face to face with a porcupine. Finding all the quills hidden beneath Angus' thick coat was a chore, as was removing a few from the roof of Pedro's mouth.

Four days later a skunk emerged from the woods when my wife had the dogs out for a walk. Pedro obeyed my wife's commands and didn't approach the striped stinker. Angus was simply too curious and got a blast in the face.

I looked online for some home remedies to remove the odor and was intrigued by posts stating their method was "amazing", "outstanding" and "the best". Well, we tried the various concoctions and can only deduce that Angus is a very special breed, because none of them worked!