The dog was the first one back to shore. No one was seriously hurt.
AUBURN – It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but it’s not.

Three men and a dog were dumped into Lake Auburn Friday afternoon when the paddle boat they were fishing from capsized nearly 75 yards from shore.

The men and the Chow swam to shore and survived the 1:30 p.m. ordeal without serious trauma. But the site of flailing arms and paws in the water caused a brief panic and emergency officials raced to the scene.

By the time police and game wardens arrived on Lake Shore Drive, Bill Conley, Jewels Varnum and Harold Conley were crawling onto the shore.

“It was a long swim,” William Conley said. “It was a long journey.”

Varnum’s dog made it to land with a little more ease and arrived there ahead of his companions.

“He swam right past all three of us,” Conley said.

Shivering but otherwise unhurt, the three men were examined at the scene for possible hypothermia. They changed into dry clothes but did not require medical treatment.

The men said they had paddled out onto Lake Auburn and were fishing not far from the ice line when their craft overturned.

“The water really didn’t feel that cold at all,” William Conley said. “Once I realized that, I was alright.”

The capsize occurred in an area visible from Lake Shore Drive as well as Route 4, but the incident was not reported immediately. A man who had been driving by the lake noticed the overturned paddle boat. But because he had no cell phone, he drove to the Police Department to report the overturned boat.

The warden, Auburn rescue workers and a police officer arrived to greet the trio on Lake Shore Drive. The three men, from the Dixfield area, were given a warning about going out onto the lake in their boat without floatation devices. Conley said they planned to continue fishing on the lake but that they would use more care.

By Friday night, the three men were warm and dry and still talking about their dip into the lake. The dog was said to be recovering nicely from his frigid swim.

“We’re still a little amazed,” Conley said. “We still can’t believe it happened.”

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