Golden Retriever Missing For 16 Days Found Swimming Along Shoreline

 New Jersey State Police Troopers Ryan Koehler and Vincent Ferdinandi were getting ready for their shift at 7 a.m. Tuesday when they received an unexpected call: a golden retriever had been sighted swimming in Barnegat Bay on the Jersey Shore and needed to be rescued.

The officers jumped into a 22-foot pool. Ferdinandi told PEOPLE that he got to the dog, which was around 75 yards from shore, using a Zodiac boat. They gently encouraged the pup to land and hoisted him onto a dock behind a home using a rope line.

"He was really weary," Ferdinandi adds. "Clearly malnourished and hungry."

With good cause. Chunk, 3, was playing fetch with owners Marie and James Zangara on June 6 when he reportedly grew terrified and went off into the woods, according to Ferdinandi.

Since Chunk went missing on Sunday, a search campaign using social media, local police agencies, baited traps, dog hunters, and trail cameras has been ongoing, according to the trooper.

Two joggers on the Mantoloking Bridge discovered Chunk early Tuesday morning, according to Ferdinandi, but when they tried to capture him, he leaped into the river. He'd swum almost two kilometers across the river by the time he was rescued.

Once on land, Chunk looked afraid by the military — "he kind of backed away from us," Ferdinandi adds. They kept Chunk safe by their sides until the dog's family arrived.

"Seeing their relief that a member of their family had returned was incredible, and the dog was just as happy to see his family," Ferdinandi says.

Koehler, a trooper for 16 years, has a rescue Lab/shepherd mix and understands how upsetting it would be to be without a dog for up to two weeks. "I completely understand," he says.

"All we want is for the dog and his owners to be reunited," Ferdinandi adds.


The good news was shared over 6,000 times by the New Jersey State Police on their Facebook page early Tuesday.

"Troopers Koehler and Ferdinandi responded in a motorboat and discovered Chunk, who was swimming near the Mantoloking Bridge and were able to safely bring him to land," the State Police wrote on Facebook.

"Chunk, a three-year-old boy," the message continues, "has been missing for more than two weeks." "It goes without saying that he was overjoyed to see his grateful owners once more."

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