A mixed dog between the Leonberger and the Bernese Mountain Dog was rescued on Tuesday morning, December 6, 2022, under a pier at Independence Harbor in Edgewater, New Jersey, after swimming across the Hudson River from Manhattan.
The brown, six-month-old 50-lb dog, Bear, was out on a walk with his owners when he managed to escape his loose harness and bolted through the streets three days prior.
The dog was able to run down the West Side Highway and then jumped into the water near 110th Street.
The owner, Ellen Wolpin, almost gave up on recovering Bear when authorities couldn’t find the dog that Saturday afternoon.
A Newly Adopted Dog
According to Wolpin, Bear was recently adopted as a seizure-service dog for his developmentally disabled 20-year-old son, Zack.
She recounted that on the afternoon of December 3, she and her husband, together with Bear, were heading to the pet store for a new harness for the dog on the Upper West Side on West 80th Street and West End when he suddenly broke free from the loose harness.
The dog was new to the city and must have broken free after being startled by something. Bear seemed terrified and did not respond to his name when they tried to call him back.
Wolpin’s husband followed Bear for over 20 blocks through busy streets, bushes, and bike paths, but the dog was way ahead of him for more than a quarter of a mile.
The couple said that it was a bit rainy that day, and there were few people around that could help them.
By the time Wolpin’s husband caught sight of Bear, the dog was already in the river swimming.
Wolpin called 911, and emergency boats were immediately dispatched when they learned that the dog had jumped into the Hudson towards New Jersey.
“We didn’t think that he made it across, I was sick to my stomach, and just kind of kept hoping that it was a nightmare,” Wolpin recalled.
Two days after the incident, with still no call from the authorities, Wolpin was just about to accept that Bear was gone until she received a call from Edgewater Fire Company No. 1 at 5 am on Tuesday morning.
The firefighters found Bear under a pier at Independence Harbor after someone reported hearing a bark near the water. Luckily, Bear was microchipped, so the authorities were able to contact Wolpin.
Authorities surmised that the dog must have swum almost a mile to cross the river.
Wolpin commented that Bear had run a complete triathlon “because he ran about a mile-and-a-half and then swam about a mile.”
Leonbergers are said to be adept at swimming and have webbed feet that can paddle water easily.
After being taken to the veterinarian for some checks and given a clean bill of health, Bear was reunited with his family that same morning and promptly given a bath.
Wolpin’s friends commented that Bear is a Christmas miracle. “We were so happy,” Wolpin gleamed. “This dog has had tons of treats and tons of hugs, and we’re just doing everything possible.”