One adventurous dog just reunited with his overjoyed owners this week after he had been missing for more than two weeks. The free-spirited pup was finally found in the most unusual of places: taking a dip in New Jersey’s Barnegat Bay.
New Jersey State Police Troopers Ryan Koehler and Vincent Ferdinandi, who work for Point Pleasant Station, were preparing for their morning shift when a 7 a.m. dispatch alerted them to the swimming dog in need of rescuing.
Three-year-old Chunk, a Golden Retriever, was 75 yards from shore when the troopers arrived. They hopped into a 22-foot Zodiac boat and located the dog, who was swimming around the Mantoloking Bridge. The troopers then began to coax the dog to swim toward land, eventually guiding him to a house dock.
“We positioned our boat, got (the) line ready, acted as a leash,” said Koehler, according to the Associated Press. “Line around dog and guide him up to the docks.”
Once safely on land, Chunk became skittish and scared of the troopers. “He kind of backed away from us,” said Ferdinandi, People reported. But they managed to keep the dog in place until his joyful owners arrived.
“He ran into the woods with his toy,” owner Jim Zangara told WABC-TV, recounting the Sunday that Chunk disappeared. “I said, ‘Come on, buddy’… He turned around and booked. I think he might’ve been startled by somebody.”
Thus began the weeks of desperate searching for the beloved dog. The Zangaras spearheaded a social media campaign, hung posters, collaborated with animal rescue to set traps, and utilized the local police departments, hound hunters, and trail cameras.
Then early Tuesday morning, an incredible 16 days later, two joggers on the Mantoloking Bridge ran into Chunk, recognizing him from posters around town. It was when they reached out to try and grab him that the dog took his plunge into Barnegat Bay.
A nearby fishing boat then joined in on the action, trying to follow the dog. “They started waving at me,” Jim Mathis said of the joggers. “I came close to him, and he kept trying to back away from the boat. Once I backed off, he started to swim toward land.”
By the time the troopers arrived and guided Chunk to safety, the dog had swum almost two miles. Marie and James Zangara were then reunited with their courageous Chunk, who was tired, hungry, and covered in ticks but otherwise healthy.
His owners had feared the worst and were overjoyed to have their dog safe and home again. “I don’t have the words to say thanks for all the support,” Marie Zangara said.
“To see the sigh of relief that a part of their family was back was unbelievable,” said Ferdinandi. “And the dog was happy to see his family as well.”