“A dog is a man’s best friend” is a phrase all dog owners would happily agree with. This story proves that dogs are loyal not only towards their owners, but towards other animals as well. Mark Freeley spent a rather ordinary afternoon with his two dogs, Storm and Sarah, along the shore of Long Island Sound. Things took an unexpected, yet appreciated, turn when his 6-year-old Golden retriever Storm detected something in the lake. What followed was something even Mark couldn’t predict, and if he needed another reassurance of his dog’s kindness – that was it.
A good boy
While all dogs are usually good-natured, Golden retrievers in particular are known for their friendly and cheerful personality. That’s why Mark Freeley fell in love with Storm. Mark loved his two dogs and spent a great amount of time with them.
Given the good temper of the dogs and how much Mark cared for them, he would take them daily on long walks, usually without a leash. He knew how loyal his dogs were, and he trusted them to come back.
Detecting something in the water
It so happened that on this day Mark took Storm for a walk near the Long Island Sound. He was a regular visitor of the area and his dogs were familiar with it as well.
Suddenly, something in the water caught their attention. The Long Island sound is a very calm spot, so when the water seemed uneasy, the two immediately sensed something was happening.
A rescue mission
Without hesitation, Storm stormed into the water. Mark never had a chance to react, as it happened so fast. Mark tried to identify what was happening in the water, as he noticed his dog returning to shore holding something in his mouth.
Was it a log? Was it some drifting object? He knew his dog had a weak spot for logs, as most dogs do, but to jump in the ice-cold water to retrieve one? that seemed unlikely.
A proud father
As any proud dog owner would do, Mark took out his phone to document his dog’s brave actions. He took a video of the rescue mission, before he even knew what Storm was saving.
He recognized that it’s not an object, but some kind of animal. In the viral video that he later posted, Mark is heard encouraging his dog and cheering for him. As Storm was approaching the shore, Mark’s amazement was growing.
When Storm finally approached the shore, Mark identified the animal his dog had saved: it was a small deer. The helpless creature went in the water for a dip and must have been swept away.
Mark and Storm got to the shore in the nick of time, when the deer was about to drown. But Storm’s job didn’t end there. When he brought the deer back to shore, he still cared for him.
Though the Long Island Sound looks tranquil and inviting, the temperature of the water is extremely cold, tidal and deeper than it looks. And so, though deer can swim, this little one wasn’t up for it.
Who knows what might have happened to the small deer hadn’t Mark and his dog walked by at the right moment. As Mark later indicated in an interview, his dog is “the most gracious, gentle” creature you would meet.
While Mark knew the kind nature of his dog, he was awed by how much he cared for the small animal. Storm was licking the deer, as if to console him, like dogs often do their puppies.
The story didn’t end there. Both Mark and Storm noticed that luckily the deer was alive, but unconscious. The two took care of him and nursed him back to health. In the video, Storm is seen nudging the fawn until he got a response from it.
A lucky coincidence
As it happens, Mark Freeley is a lawyer in his profession, and a sworn animal lover. Incidentally, he does pro-bono legal assistance for an animal shelter. Thus, luckily for the little fellow, Freeley was connected with animal shelters around town.
Mark knew how to handle the situation, and he called a local animal rescue center he was connected with – Strong Island Animal Rescue League. The deer was lucky – he couldn’t have asked for a better rescue team.
Calling for help
Not many people know, but deer’s are animals of flight; whenever they feel insecure, they run anywhere possible. That’s why when the organization’s manager arrived, the deer fled back into the water.
The poor fawn was overwhelmed by the experience, and so when he recovered, he tried to run back into the water. It’s not an uncommon reaction for deer, as it turns out, to flee in the face of danger – and that is what this fawn was doing.
A joined effort
This time it was the manager of the animal shelter, Mr. Floridia, who jumped into the water to retrieve the fawn. When he got him safely to shore, Mr. Floridia called for help.
His partner in from the Strong Island Animal Rescue League (and incidentally, his life partner) arrived to provide further assistance with the fragile animal. The couple was familiar with such cases, as they have dealt with animals in need before.
Their life mission
The Strong Island Animal Rescue League was founded by married couple Frankie Floridia and Erica Kutzing, after the two wanted to make it their life mission to help animals of need. The two also own a pet shop.
As the couple later indicated, the deer had several physical injuries and an emotional trauma from the ordeal he went through. The two assumed that he fell off a cliff and into the water, and that was the source of his trauma.
On dry land
Once Erica showed up at the scene, the couple took the small deer back to their rescue center. That’s when they recognized his young age and the multiple injuries he had suffered.
Apparently, the fawn was merely three months old, and that seemed to be the reason why he couldn’t handle himself in the freezing water of Port Jefferson harbor. Deer can swim, but the fawn was too small and fragile to do so.
Not the only hero
Turns out that Storm isn’t the sole hero of this story, and a lot of the credit goes to Frankie and Erica, who cared for the deer in their rescue center until he was healthy and back on his feet.
The two indicated that being carried in a dog’s mouth is also an extremely traumatic ordeal for a deer, but that his trauma was probably caused by falling or drowning.
The Strong Island Animal Rescue League is commonly called “STARS”, and not for naught. Frankie, Erica and their professional team identified the fawn’s injuries and treated him with antibiotics for several months.
When the fawn was in the capable hands of Frankie and Erica, Mark Freeley and Storm stayed at the beach to calm down after the exciting incident; the dog earned his rest after saving the small Bambi.
Back on his feet
Slowly but surely, under the care of the Strong Island Animal Rescue League, the deer did get better. He was in a bad condition when he arrived there, but it wasn’t the first time the League had incidents like this one.
Throughout the time he spent at the shelter, they fed him baby formula and nursed him back to help. Their mission was to make him ready to return to nature, where he belongs.
An unlikely friendship
But Storm’s role in the story wasn’t over. The dog connected with the fawn as he rescued and later cared for him, and so Mark Freeley occasionally brought his dog to the animal clinic to visit his new friend.
As the fawn was getting better and stronger, it was no longer intimidating for him to see the dog, and the two developed an unlikely relationship. It wasn’t going to be a long one, as the fawn had to be released back to nature as soon as his wounds healed, but it was a meaningful nonetheless.
It was a happy ending not only for the fawn. Naturally, the video Mark took of Storm’s rescue mission went viral, as thousands of people were touched by the dog’s actions and shared the video online.
The video took the internet by storm, and the Golden retriever became a national hero. He was even invited to several talk shows. Of course, he he wasn’t aware of the importance of his actions, but he enjoyed the attention nonetheless.
In his nature
Though it’s in the nature of Golden retrievers to retrieve stuff, and Storm’s rescue was an act of instinct, the story of the hero dog became a sensation. Storm became a celebrity and was interviewed by local news stations.
Mark’s other dog, Sarah, was left out of the spotlight. Since it’s in the nature of Golden retrievers to retrieve anything they see, it’s no surprise that it was Storm who jumped into the water to save the fawn, though at first he didn’t even know what it was he was saving.
A blessed change
At a time when social media is filled with bad news, gossip and politics, it’s a refreshing change to see a video of two animals becoming friends in the most unlikely scenario. It’s no surprise that Mark’s video went viral.
Naturally, the dog’s life didn’t change too much despite all the media attention. As any cheerful Golden retriever, Storm enjoyed all the attention that he got from Mark, his friends and even strangers on the street, but other than that, he wasn’t aware of the consequences of his heroic act.
A special dog
Though it’s in their nature to retrieve whatever thy see, volunteers at the Strong Island Animal Rescue League indicated that Golden retrievers often chew up small animals, such as deer. And as a rule, they tend to chew anything they have in their mouth.
Thus, it’s a miracle that all Storm did was carry the fawn back to shore without hurting him whatsoever – he really did deserve the praise and attention he received.
Despite the dog’s nature to retrieve, Mark indicated that he never taught him to fetch, and the rescue shelter indicated that the dog was aware of the dangers of jumping in the water.
That’s why Storm became a national hero of Port Jefferson. Although the care of Strong Island Animal Rescue League is what eventually allowed the fawn to heal, if it wasn’t for Storm, he would have never survived in the water.
All well that ends well
In the end, it was a joint effort of Mark Freeley, Storm and the Strong Island Animal Rescue League team that saved the small deer. It was absolute luck that Mark happened to be at the right spot at the right moment.
Freeley was the perfect man for the job, as he is an animal lover who has rescued many dogs, and would never walk away from an animal in need. Since then, the Strong Island Animal Rescue League continue their important work at the shelter.