Golden retriever Storm comes to the res­cue of drown­ing fawn

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - SARAH MASLIN NIR

Clearly, he is a hero.

“Good boy, Storm!” a man’s voice says in the video, call­ing to a golden retriever pad­dling to­ward a brown lump bob­bing in the water of Port Jef­fer­son Har­bor off Long Is­land. Tak­ing it in his mouth, the dog hauls it to­ward the beach, a mo­ment filmed by his owner on Sun­day that has been seen by 5.2 mil­lion and count­ing on Face­book.

The lump was a fawn, which the dog dragged onto the sand. There it lay, alive but barely mov­ing.

Storm gen­tly nudged the fawn’s belly. It scarcely re­sponded. He nuz­zled it again. Noth­ing. He pawed at its tiny hooves. Then the video ended.

The video footage has launched Storm to sud­den so­cial me­dia star­dom and sent him on a tour of morn­ing TV talk shows.

Ban­ish any thought that the dog, a 6-year-old English golden retriever owned by Mark Free­ley, a per­sonal in­jury lawyer from East Se­tauket, N.Y., might have sim­ply been fol­low­ing his in­stinct to re­trieve.

Def­i­nitely do not imag­ine that the dog was hun­gry.

“I was there, and if any­body knows Storm, they know that’s not in his heart,” said Free­ley, who cap­tured the mo­ment on his phone while out with the golden retriever and his other, less fa­mous dog, Sarah, a res­cued bor­der col­lie. “He is the most gen­tle, gra­cious dog you ever want to meet.”

Free­ley, who also fos­ters res­cue dogs and does pro bono le­gal work for a lo­cal an­i­mal res­cue, said Storm “grasped the deer by the neck just the way a life­guard would put his arm over some­one’s neck — and dragged him in.”

In the video, Storm licks the deer’s jugu­lar. “It was so touch­ing,” Free­ley said. “It showed he re­ally had a care and was wor­ried about the fawn.”

Free­ley said he left to get help. He called a group he knew, Strong Is­land An­i­mal Res­cue League. Frank Floridia, who runs the or­ga­ni­za­tion, ar­rived with leashes and nets.

By then, the fawn had wob­bled back up. It took one look at the men and two dogs and darted back into the water, Floridia said.

“They are an­i­mals of flight; they are go­ing to take off wher­ever they can go,” he said. “In a yard, they will smash through a wooden fence.”

The fawn pad­dled out again, this time about 250 feet. Af­ter a failed at­tempt by Storm to fetch it once more, Floridia took off his shirt and, in his sneak­ers and shorts, swam out and grabbed the deer.

The 3-month-old white-tailed deer had un­ex­plained wounds on its head and one closed eye, he said. Floridia and his part­ner, Er­ica Kutz­ing, drove the deer to Save the An­i­mals Res­cue Foun­da­tion in Mid­dle Is­land, N.Y., where it was in sta­ble con­di­tion late Tues­day, said Lori Ketcham, a di­rec­tor of the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Many fawns that are brought to the an­i­mal res­cue, Ketcham said, are there be­cause of dogs — and not heroic ones. “I think the dog did a very good thing, but I’m very re­al­is­tic about what dogs do — dogs tend to chew these lit­tle deer up,” she said.

The fawn will even­tu­ally be re­turned to the wild, she said, but it is re­cov­er­ing from many ail­ments.

Be­ing in a dog’s mouth, Ketcham said, could be con­sid­ered trau­matic — but so could fall­ing off a sandy cliff, the res­cuers’ lead­ing the­ory of how the fawn got in the water.

(Pay no at­ten­tion to the naysay­ers who may sus­pect that a dog chased it there.)

Char­ac­ter wit­nesses for Storm in­clude a pa­rade of fos­ter pup­pies the Free­leys have taken in over the last month. “They tor­tured this poor guy,” Free­ley said. “And he did noth­ing.”

JOHNNY MILANO, NYT

Storm is an in­ter­net sen­sa­tion af­ter pulling a fawn from Port Jef­fer­son Har­bor in New York.

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