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Fargo man warns of thin lake ice after dog's death

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Clay Whittlesey, right, and Hannah the dog. 2 / 2

EDGELEY, N.D. – A Fargo man has a harrowing story of survival after a weekend hunting trip turned tragic. Clay Whittlesey wasn’t able to save his dog after she went through thin ice, but he survived the ordeal.

"Had her 12 years. My fourth Lab, my friend, companion, hunting buddy," Whittlesey said.

When Whittlesey and Hannah went to Edgeley to hunt snow geese over the weekend, he never imagined he would come home alone.

The lake they worked for geese was still open in the middle, with ice around the edges.

When Hannah ran out to get a goose, there was trouble. She was through the ice.

Whittlesey carefully walked out to the ice, but he, too, went through.

"Got 10 yards from her and boom, water up to my ears ... I was saying Hail Marys like you would not believe," Whittlesey said.

With the help of friends, he got a duck boat out on the water to try to get to Hannah, but the boat flipped, again sending Whittlesey into the water.

He was able to again get back on the ice, exhausted, freezing and lucky.

"Tragic to lose a dog. I cannot compare that to losing a human, but there is a good chance I would not be here right now," Whittlesey said.

A dive team retrieved the dog’s body on Monday.

Whittlesey knows many will be ice fishing soon and wants others to heed his warning.

"Not worth it. I made mistakes. I am fortunate to be here. If a few people hear this story and not go out there," Whittlesey said.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources advises people to stay off lakes if the ice is 2 inches thick or less, 4 inches for ice fishing or other activities on foot and 5 inches for a snowmobile or ATV.

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