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Movers credited with saving man and dog from icy Westerville pond

Arturo Avila and William Robinson saw Fritz Ratcliff slam on his brakes, hop out and run straight into the pond to save his dog. They say they knew they to help.

WESTERVILLE, Ohio — It’s a place to make sure Jack can get out his “zoomies” so he doesn’t run around the apartment.

He and his owner, Frederick “Fritz” Ratcliff, spent a lot of time at Brooksedge Park Bark Park in Westerville. And they were there two weeks ago, on Jan. 19.

“Jack has one little fault, and that’s, if he’s not hooked to you, he – pew- gone, he will bolt,” Ratcliff said.

And that’s just what Jack did on that cold January day, leaving Ratcliff to rush to his Jeep to go after him.

He drove past a nearby pond and saw a sight that made his heart drop.

“Just out of the corner of my eye, oh no, he is dead center in the middle of this lake, he broke through the ice, and he couldn’t get out,” Ratcliff said. “I ran down and went in. Just like that. The ice didn’t support me any more than it did him.”

As this all was playing out, two men from Premier Office Movers were right there.

“We were coming down the street, and this gentleman pulls out of a driveway and pulls right in front of me, sort of cattywampus, parks his vehicle, jumps out of his vehicle and runs towards the pond,” mover William Robinson said.

Robinson and his partner, Arturo Avila, stopped to help.

Avila grabbed some straps out of the back of the truck and ran toward the water while Robinson called 911.

“We got a drowning dog,” Robinson told the dispatcher. “We just had a gentleman jump in the damn water, try to save the dog, and I think he’s almost drowning.”

And Ratcliff said, he felt like he was.

“I remember thinking, this is it, this is where I’m going to die,” he said. “This is it. Just like that. Just, I knew it. This is it.”

But it wasn’t. Somehow Ratcliff made it back to shore with Jack. But he doesn’t know if he would have been able to make it much farther without some help.

“(I) probably would have froze to death,” he said. “Because I couldn’t walk. Jack had been in the water so long, he was just laying on his side next to me.”

That’s when Avila and Robinson really jumped into action, putting Jack safely back into the Jeep and helping Ratcliff to the curb, covering him with moving blankets.

It was right around that time that Westerville Police arrived, and the aftermath was all captured on body-worn camera.

“He was in the water, and he couldn’t get out,” Ratcliff said of Jack to the officer. “And he’s my best friend. I wasn’t going to let him drown, so I just jumped.”

The officer helped to remove some of Ratcliff’s drenched clothing, and medic arrived to check him. He was okay. And he was later able to drive back home with Jack.

The movers had left before Ratcliff could get their names, but he still has a message for them.

“I don’t know who they are, but I’m grateful that they were there,” he said. “I’d just tell them, you know, thank you so much for stopping.”

And the movers are happy they were there, too. Avila says it was his good deed for the day.

“Nobody else cared, they just kept going around,” he said. “I figure like, maybe for being nosy, we saved somebody’s life.”

The City of Westerville is now planning to give the movers a civilian award at an upcoming city council meeting.

Some are calling the men heroes. Robinson says they’re just “regular old” movers and installers.

“What more can you say, you know, it’s just one of those things that happened, and everybody came out on top,” he said. “Everybody won that day. That’s something you don’t hear too often, but I think that day we were all winners.”

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