At about 1:30 p.m. today a Stafford resident thought he saw a dog fall through the ice at Horseshoe Lake and after the dog didn't reemerge from the water, he called emergency dispatch.
Stafford fire along with the water rescue team from City of Batavia fire responded but the prospects appeared grim. The dog was nowhere to be seen, there was no motion in the area where the dog reportedly went in, and 15 minutes may have already passed.
Still, the water rescue team went about its task of inflating its boats and slipping into cold water gear.
Then a call came over the radio, "tell them not to go into the water yet."
A second later, a deputy received a phone call, "It's not a dog?" he said to the person who called him.
It turns out, another resident has been aware of what was going on all along but wasn't aware emergency crews had been dispatched. Mike Mullen, a retired City firefighter, had seen the animal out on the frozen lake and spied it through his binoculars. His wife grabbed her camera and a long lens and took pictures. It was an otter eating a fish.
Every once in a while, the otter would dive back in the water with its giant catch of the day and then come back up on the ice to surface to feast some more.
"Without binoculars, it would look like a dog struggling," Mullen said.
When his wife had to leave the house a short time later, she spotted the police and fire response and Mullen came out with the camera, with its LCD screen on the back to show the pictures, and let everybody know, "it's just an otter."
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