Dog named 'Bear' escapes owner in NYC, swims across river to NJ, gets rescued days later

WOODLAND PARK, N.J. – A dog named Bear went on quite the adventure this week when he escaped from his owner in New York, swam the Hudson River and finally was rescued in Edgewater, New Jersey.

"Other than being smelly and hungry, he’s totally fine," his owner Ellen Wolpin said.

Bear got away from Wolpin on Saturday while out for a walk, to get a better fitting harness no less. When Bear stopped to go to the bathroom at West End Avenue in Manhattan, Wolpin pulled on his leash to get him out of traffic. That allowed Bear to slip his collar and make a run for it.

Dog the Bear after being rescued in Edgewater, New Jersey, Dec. 6, 2022.
Dog the Bear after being rescued in Edgewater, New Jersey, Dec. 6, 2022.

A passerby tried to grab Bear but he remained elusive. Bear ran from 80th Street all the way 110th Street, where he jumped into the Hudson River.

"We assumed the dog was gone," Wolpin said, noting they called 911 and patrol boats went to look for him. "I told my son the dog was gone."

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Wolpin only got Bear a few days earlier. He's a Leonberger-Bernese mountain dog mix.

All appeared lost for Bear until early Tuesday, when the Edgewater Police Department received a call from a concerned citizen who heard a dog howling shortly after midnight. Officers found Bear stuck underneath the pier of the Independence Harbor and Hudson River walkway.

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The Edgewater Fire Department joined the rescue from there. The dog went from one concrete pilon to another so firefighters took to the water to get him in their boat.

"But the dog kept running away because it was scared," Edgewater Fire Chief Joseph Chevalier said. "We don’t know how long the dog had been underneath that pier."

Two firefighters put on wet suits and dove into the water. They coaxed Bear toward the boat and another firefighter finally pulled him in at about 3:30 a.m.

"The dog was very scared when he got in the boat," Chevalier said. "He was wet. So one of the firefighters had a sweatshirt and used it to dry the dog."

That morning Wolpin got a call that Bear, who is microchipped, was safe and sound after a checkup from Oradell Animal Hospital.

Bear came from Montana and is a cold-weather breed which may have helped him withstand the elements, Wolpin said. Once home, he just wanted lots of love and treats.

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Wolpin said she couldn't thank the Edgewater first responders enough and called it a Christmas miracle to be reunited with Bear.

"We’ve had dogs for the past 25 years but none that jumped into the Hudson and definitely none that swam across," she said.

"I didn’t even think that was possible."

This article originally appeared on Dog named Bear swims from Manhattan to New Jersey via Hudson River