For The Daily Prompt: Daring Do
Sometimes in life you have to put your pride on the shelf, and especially those moments when you are asking yourself why a kind and generous act of your own is not being given the credit it is due. How you react to the situation, however, should never prevent you from doing it all again in the future.
It was a bitterly cold, winter’s morning that day, when me and my wife had decided to take a leisurely stroll through Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, NY. The wind was whipping mercilessly across the snow-covered fields and slapping sharply against our faces. It was not a particularly very nice morning to be walking through the park, but we were young and had the warmth of a loving relationship to keep us both warm.
And a brand new puppy.
Rocky was his name, and he was pulling us along as if we were all frolicking on the Great Lawn of NYC’s Central Park on a warm, summer’s day. German Shepherd, puppy dogs are like that somehow; the snow and the ice seem to be nothing more than a minor nuisance to them.
It was about 20-minutes into our walk that we began to hear what sounded like the frantic, yelping of a dog coming from the small lake that ran under the Van Wyck Expressway that bordered that side of the park. The overpass to it above was supported by six, round, concrete columns that ran from below the waterline and up to the highway itself.
It was from there that the desperate cries of a dog in the ice and water could be heard. I could see half the dog’s body sticking out of the broken ice and his two front paws desperately trying to clutch on to one of the concrete columns. He was struggling wildly and appeared to be sinking lower and lower into the water with each passing moment.
As I stood there watching, helplessly, my heart began to pound fast as I saw the dog beginning to slip further down into the water.
I panicked. I did not know what to do. I looked at my wife. She was screaming hysterically, and our puppy was barking wildly as if he knew that one of his canine friends was in trouble.
I looked around, for something, anything long that I could stick into the water for the dog to clutch on to so I could pull him in, but it was to no avail – the dog and the column was too far for anything to reach.
“Joe, do something! Jump in there,” my wife screamed.
“What, are you nuts?” I yelled. “That water is about 20-degrees and the ice looks like it is going to break.”
She covered her mouth with her hands, then said, “You’re right, and I don’t want you to go. We have to find someone to help.”
As we looked around, we suddenly saw a Parks Department truck parked with some men sitting in it that was idling about 500-yards from where we were standing.
“Thank God!” I said out loud then began running over to it.
“Hold on baby…hold on…you can make it baby…help is on the way.” My wife yelled to the struggling dog as its cries began to get louder and its struggle began to get weaker.
Just as I got up to the truck, the driver jumped out. “What’s wrong, buddy?” Obviously he had seen the urgency in my face.
“There’s a dog drowning in the lake over there, by the overpass.” I yelled at him.
He looked over for a moment towards the highway, then said, “Yeah, so, what do you want me to do?”
His answer startled me. I was not expecting such a callous response. “I want you to help it!” I screamed, “It’s going to drown!”
He looked at me as if I was nuts. “Are you serious? I’m not going out on that lake and neither are any of my men. They will fall in and freeze to death and probably drown!”
Without even thinking about it, I said, “Then I’ll go in. Just get me a rope so you can pull me up in case I fall through the ice!”
He thought for a moment, shook his head, then said, “Fine pal, have it your way.”
As he jumped back into the truck, I ran back towards the lake. By the time I got near the edge, people had begun to gather on the overpass above and from inside the park. Everybody was screaming, yelling to the dog to hold on longer.
As soon as the truck pulled by the water, four Parks Department employees jumped out and ran over with a thick, long rope. “Here, tie this around your waist and we’ll tie the other end to a tree,” the driver said. “If we see you start to fall in, we’re going to pull you out, okay?”
“Okay,” I agreed. As soon as the rope was tightly secure around my waist and tied to the tree, I began to walk on to the ice. I heard the ice cracking slightly below my feet.
“Lay down flat on your belly and crawl your way over,” yelled one of them. “And spread your feet apart to distribute your weight.”
I got down on both knees then began to crawl my way over to the dog. He was not crying very much now, but he noticed me and seemed to have found a new reason for hope. He began to cry louder, and he was shaking violently.
“Just a few seconds longer buddy…just a few seconds more,” I yelled to him. I was only about a few yards away when suddenly he lost his grip and began to slip the rest of the way into the water.
“No!” I screamed, then without thinking jumped up and lunged the rest of the way towards him. He was about 12-feet away from me, but I landed on my stomach and was just able to grab his front ankle as his head slipped below the water.
“I gotcha… I gotcha buddy!” I screamed as I grabbed on to his paw and held on tight. Just then, I heard someone scream “Pull!” as the rope tightened around my waist and I began to feel my body being pulled back towards the lake’s shore, I reached over with my other hand and grabbed his leg.
“Hold on…hold on buddy.” I whispered. As if by magic, the dog’s head suddenly came out of the water. I held on tighter and closed my eyes as we both got pulled into shore.
I could hear cheers coming from the overpass. People were yelling and shouting with joy. “You did it bro…you saved him!” Some guy from above yelled.
I was not feeling jubilant and I was very cold and sore. After the Parks Department guys took the rope off me and covered me with a towel, I went over to the dog and knelt beside him. He smelled all sweaty and wet, then proceeded to shake himself off by spraying it all on me.
I just laughed and bowed my head down to him as he happily licked my face.
We then sat in the truck with the dog for about a half hour to warm up then went on home. Me and my wife did not say much about it that evening. I think we were both a bit mentally exhausted.
The next morning when we woke up, my wife went outside to the driveway to get the Sunday newspaper. As she walked into the house, she was shaking her head looking down at the newspaper, then said to me, “Joe, you are not going to believe this.”
“What?” I said.
She handed the paper to me. There on the second page of the newspaper was a headline that said, “Parks Department Employees Rescue Drowning Dog From Lake!” There they were all four of the guys from the day before kneeling around the dog and hugging it.
I read the article. There was not one mention of me.
Now I could have been angry, and called the newspaper and told them what really happened, but what would that accomplish? Surely, I could have dug up a few of the dozens of witnesses that saw me rescue the dog and made a big deal about the story.
I decided not to do that. The important thing was that a dog’s life was saved from a horrible and untimely death. That was the real reward, for both me and the dog.
Sometimes in life, it is not what one gets out of doing something for someone that counts, or the recognition, it is the fact that you did something good for someone at all.
Besides, ever since then and everywhere I go, dogs are always very fond of me.
© Joseph E. Rathjen – All Rights Reserved – 2013
Joseph E. Rathjen is an Opinion Writer for 1World Online – America’s Fastest Growing Social Media Engine.
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