Story by Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter

DALTON, GA. (WRCB)-- When you've had a pet longer than you've had your children, saying goodbye can be like losing part of your family.

But a North Georgia family is thanking a neighbor, for giving them a few more precious hours with their trusted companion.

He braved an icy lake, to save their dog, from drowning.

 "She was absolutely a house dog," says Crystal Woods, Piggy's owner.

After 13 years, Piggy will be but a cherished memory for Crystal Woods' family this Christmas.

"We were able to spend the last two days, how we wanted to," says Woods.

Piggy suffered arthritis and kidney failure.

But this past Tuesday, in the bitter cold, she bolted straight for her neighbor's two acre lake.

"We're assuming she wanted water and that was the best method to get it," says Woods. "I got about halfway into the yard when I saw her step onto the ice."

Ice less than an inch thick.

She broke through!

"I have three kids in the house by themselves," says Woods. "I just kept screaming somebody please help me, my dog is drowning, I need your help, please just help me."

But Kenny Downey was in his yard and heard it all. When he saw it all, he knew what he had to do.

"I just went to the garage, got a rope, went down there. By that time, Crystal's mom had come," says Downey. "Gave her one end and I took the other with me because I wanted to be sure I could get out."

"I just knew at that point everything would be okay," says Woods.

"She did go under as I went in, but she did pop back up," says Downey.

Kenny had to wade in, and crack the ice, bare-handed, to get all 70 pounds of miss Piggy up, and out.

"I was cold, you know, just had that burning feeling," says Downey. "It was probably a couple of hours before I felt I was warming up."

Five days later, his clothes still haven't thawed out.

His rescue, bought Piggy time.

Two days later, her ills would force Crystal, to put her down.

But only after a favorite meal and a chance for the children to say goodbye.

"Knowing that she was able to go peacefully, without having to suffer," says Woods. "Thanks to Kenny, we are able to do these things for her."

Kenny understands that special bond.

But sees his own actions, as nothing extraordinary.

"I think anybody would have done it for me, I just happened to be the one there," says Downey.

Crystal revived her dog by digging her in gradually warming water.

But Kenny had to wrap himself in hunting gear and a sleeping bag. His well water was frozen!

Both agree that the rope he brought was critical in this ice and water rescue: a life line, so that rescuers don't become victims themselves.