Mark Freeley watched in surprise as his dog Storm turned towards the water. The dog owner followed his pet’s gaze – the animal had spotted something. A wildly flailing shape was splashing around in the water, and it appeared to be in distress. Suddenly, Storm took off and jumped into the ocean.
Mark Freeley is a resident of East Setauket, New York, who works as a personal injury lawyer. As well as having an obvious interest in the law, Freeley is also a passionate animal lover. In fact, he lives with two dogs: border collie rescue dog Sarah and golden retriever Storm.
Storm is an English golden retriever, a breed that is generally heavier built than its relatives. Just like other retrievers, though, the English variety is bred to accompany hunters on shooting trips. Indeed, the breed gets its name for its part in the human-dog hunting dynamic.
To be more specific, when a golden retriever’s human shoots a target, the dog sets off to fetch the stricken prey. But over the years, the breed’s trainability and intelligence has earned it a new role. Now, golden retrievers are often employed as assistance, search and rescue, or detection dogs.
Retrievers’ benign personalities also make them ideal for these roles. And perhaps this affability is also what led to Storm’s fame. On July 16, 2017, the dog became an internet sensation for his reaction to an incident that occurred during a family walk with his owner.
With Sarah in tow, the trio were enjoying some exercise on a Long Island Sound beach when a commotion drew Storm’s attention. An object was thrashing around in the water, and the noise also alerted Freeley to the fact that something wasn’t quite right: an animal was struggling to stay afloat in the estuary.
Freeley quickly identified the distressed creature as a young deer, one that the sea was threatening to claim. Storm must have witnessed the same thing, but what the retriever did next surprised his human. Freeley described what happened to CBS News on July 17, 2017.
“Storm just plunged into the water, started swimming out to the fawn,” Freeley revealed. “And then [he] grabbed the fawn by her neck and started swimming in to the shore.” As it happened, Storm’s daddy recorded the rescue, and the footage captured Freeley’s reaction.
The video shows Freeley shouting encouragement to his dog. Yells of “good boy” and “bring him in” can be heard as Storm carries the fawn ashore. Furthermore, the heroic pooch doesn’t let go of his spindly cargo until the pair are away from the waves, despite his human’s orders. But when Storm does eventually lay the deer down, the dog is instantly attentive.
Storm lies down next to the young deer and treats it almost like you’d expect a mother dog to treat her pup. “And then [Storm] started nudging it with his nose,” Freeley told CBS News. “And he started pawing it, to make sure it was going to be okay, I guess.”
With the fawn out of the water, Freeley contacted the Strong Island Animal Rescue League (SIARL). Two members of the group, Erica Kutzing and Frank Floridia, arrived to help. When they turned up, however, the pair witnessed events taking a turn for the worse.
Whether it was the presence of the dogs or its own recent traumatic experience, something upset the deer. Consequently, the animal ran from the scene and, in its rush to get away, dashed back into the sea. The humans then took control of the second rescue – not that it was any easier for them than it had been for Storm.
In fact, it was more problematic – for one simple reason. “This time it went out even further,” Freeley said of the fawn. Both he and Floridia entered the water to try and haul the deer back ashore, but it wasn’t a simple task. In fact, Floridia described the ensuing operation as “a lot of anxiety.”
Fortunately, with the two men working together, they managed to grab the deer, and it was soon safe in Floridia’s arms. The rescue had taken the efforts of two men, some rope and eight minutes of full-on action. However, just getting the deer out of the water wasn’t enough.
Since the fawn had already fled back into the sea once, there was always a possibility it would do so again. And if that happened, neither of the men were in much of a condition to pursue it. Fortunately, and much to Floridia’s relief, that’s where his buddy Kutzing came in.
“I don’t think that I could’ve done it without the help of my partner,” Floridia told CBS News. “At this point, I had come out, I was exhausted. My knee was blown out; I had collapsed on the beach.” Happily for all concerned, Kutzing responded like a hero.
In a scene possibly reminiscent of Baywatch, Kutzing sprinted a mile along the beach to help the guys. Furthermore, she was still fresh enough at the end of her run to carry the baby deer to SIARL’s rescue vehicle. A quick inspection at the van revealed that the fawn had several health issues.
To begin with, its coat was full of ticks. In addition, the baby deer also had a closed eye and unspecified injuries to its head. Possibly most worrying of all, the animal had also contracted a chest condition called subcutaneous emphysema.
SIARL took the deer to Save the Animals Rescue Foundation (SARF) on Middle island, NY, where staff identified it as a three-month-old white-tailed deer. Happily, following a diet of milk, a dose of antibiotics and some good old fashioned TLC, staff at the center expected the fawn to make a full recovery and to be released back to nature.
If it wasn’t for Storm’s initial rescue act, it’s certainly possible that the baby deer might have died. And speaking to The New York Times on July 18, 2017, Freeley could barely contain his pride at his pet’s quick thinking. “He is the most gentle, gracious dog you ever want to meet,” Freeley said.