What started out as a normal Sunday stroll along the riverbank quickly turned into a frantic rescue situation for Hayley Hesseln.
The University of Saskatchewan professor was walking her dogs near the North Commuter Bridge when she noticed another three dogs running near the river.
When she looked towards the water, she saw a woman in a red parka struggling to keep hold of the ice shelf.
“I just bolted,” Hesseln said.
She grabbed some tree branches and made her way on to the ice. She laid down flat to distribute her weight, and reached out for the woman.
“It was difficult. She had a backpack on, big heavy boots, ski pants and a parka,” she said.
Heseln said the woman was eventually able to get her legs up over the edge.
“When she got a little closer I just pulled her by the hood onto more stable ice.”
Once they got back to solid ground, Hesseln took off her own parka and put it on the woman to help her warm up.
Despite temperatures in the -20 C range, the professor said adrenaline kept her going.
“I just had a small fleece layer on, but I wasn’t cold at all,” she said.
“You’re just going so hard and hoping everything works out.”
Hesseln said she didn’t have her cell phone on her at the time, and the woman’s cell phone was water damaged, so there was no way to call for help.
Instead, Hesseln ran about a kilometre back up to Warman Road and tried to flag down a vehicle for assistance.
“Nobody was stopping, they were just buzzing by,” she said.
Finally a couple, identified as Mandy and Kevin Pryor, stopped to help out. Mandy called 9-1-1, while Kevin helped Hesseln bundle the woman up more and start walking her up the hill.
By the time they reached the top of the hill, paramedics and police had arrived to begin treating the woman for hypothermia.
The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Hesseln she was a dog-walker and two of her charges had chased after some geese on the ice.
The dogs slipped into the river, which is when the woman went out to rescue them. While she was able to pull them to safety, she fell in herself.
Hesseln said she had seen the woman before and knew the dog’s names, a custom among pet owners who walk along the path.
She said she offered to return the dogs to their owners while the woman went to the hospital. That didn’t end up being necessary as it turned out the animals belonged to one of the police officers who responded to the scene.
“It’s a small world,” Hesseln said.
None of the dogs involved was injured in the incident.