HomeOutdoorsNewsEscaped Dog Swims Across Hudson River From New York to New Jersey

Escaped Dog Swims Across Hudson River From New York to New Jersey

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by stevecoleimages via Getty Images)

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, New York City resident Ellen Wolpin decided it was the perfect time to get a new harness for her 6-month-old Leonberger Bernese mix puppy, Bear. As her developmentally disabled son Zack’s seizure-service dog, it was imperative that Bear stay close by at all times, and the harness he had was far too large for him.

So, Wolpin outfitted Bear in his ill-fitting harness and the two set off across the Upper West Side in search of a better fit. But as the pair made their way up West 80th Street, disaster struck. Bear broke free of his collar and, apparently not in the mood for a shopping trip, turned toward home.

He might have made it all the way back to his own front door except a stranger attempted to wrangle him for Ellen Wolpin, frightening Bear and sending him sprinting away in a new direction – straight toward the Hudson River.

Frightened Pup Swims a Mile Across the Hudson River

Bear ran 30 blocks and when he reached the shore, he didn’t stop. Leaping into frigid fall water, the dog continued his trek, paddling out into the Hudson toward New Jersey. The Hudson River is about a mile wide, which made it difficult for bystanders to keep sight of the wandering dog as he journeyed across.

Panicked that Bear might drown in the chilly water, Wolpin called 911 and patrol boats for help, but the search and rescue crews had no better luck.

“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 told the New York Post. “On Sunday, I was hoping that I would get a phone call from somebody. And then come Monday, there’s no way this dog survived. Then at 5:00 this morning I got a phone call from the Edgewater Police Department that they had him.”

Bear the Service Dog Reunited With His Owners

Before the first rays of dawn broke the horizon, New Jersey firefighters found Bear under a pier at Independence Harbor. “He did like a full triathlon almost,” Wolpin said. “Because he ran about a mile-and-a-half and then swam about a mile.”

A little over an hour later, the lost dog was reunited with his owners. Zack, in particular, was overjoyed to have Bear home once again. The two shared a heartwarming embrace the moment the dog walked in the door.

Though doubt crept in now and then that Bear would ever return, Ellen Wolpin clearly never gave up hope. While Bear was away, she picked up three new harnesses, hoping that one of them would be the perfect fit.

After his return, the Wolpins took Bear to the veterinarian for a check-up, worried that his journey had left him with hypothermia or worse. The vet, however, gave him a clean bill of health and sent Bear home for good.

“We were so happy,” Wolpin said, whose friends have declared Bear’s return a Christmas miracle. “This dog has had tons of treats and tons of hugs and we’re just doing everything possible. But the first thing we did was give him a bath.”