Harper was adopted by Erin O’Donnell in March 2017. She’s a loving pup who is very affectionate to her Mom, though she can be nervous around others who she doesn’t know.
One day, O’Donnell had to go to Manhattan as part of her performing work with the Brooklyn Irish Dance Company, and Harper was left with a friend. One day, a dog walker who O’Donnell knows and trusts took the pup out for some exercise.
That’s when disaster struck. A taxi zoomed past a stop sign without checking, hitting the dog walker and the pup in one go. Luckily, both only had minor injuries – but the incident terrified poor Harper, who took off running in poor terror. She didn’t stop until she reached a dead end – the East River. In her panic state, she did the only thing she could think of – she dove in.
The pup continued to swim quickly and fiercely, fuelled by severe anxiety. Onlookers thought she was just swimming, but that’s when the dog walker ran towards the area, saying that Harper had taken off and escaped. Everyone turned to the pup in the river, and soon they noticed that she couldn’t swim for much longer. The river was very cold, and she was running out of steam after expending all her energy in a frantic rush.
Gabe Castellanos, a SUNY Maritime College graduate with water survival training, knew he had to help. He grabbed a life vest from the barge, stripped down, and dove in. At that very moment, a gathering crowd of around 300 individuals were cheering him on – including filmmaker Lorenzo Fonda, who took a video of what happened next.
Castellanos took off his clothes so he was just in his underwear, then he clambered over the rails and got into the water as safely as possible. People were cheering, but he had to focus. He kept his breathing strong and swam towards the pup. When he got to her, she began to panic and started trying to get away in even more of a panic.
But Castellanos would not give up. He managed to get to her, even as she lashed out, and successfully got her back to shore. The crowd went wild, and medical attention was quickly sought for both of them. Luckily, they were all fine and were able to go home.
Now, Harper is back with her very grateful and thankful Mom, and it’s all thanks to Castellanos – a true hero!
Feature Image Source: Erin O’Donnell