'Like a Hollywood movie': Golden retriever rescued from New Jersey bay after missing 2 weeks

·4 min read

BRICK, N.J. – Jim and Marie Zangara didn’t have much hope Tuesday morning. It had been more than two weeks since their dog Chunk vanished, and there hadn’t been any sightings of him for a week.

But at 7:30 a.m., they got two unexpected calls that changed everything.

“It’s a dream come true,” Marie Zangara said. “It’s like a Hollywood movie, this ending. Because he was lost in the marsh for so long and then he winds up in the bay. He actually swam across the entire Barnegat Bay. Luckily he's a strong dog."

The first call came from two women who were jogging near Trader’s Cove Marina and had seen flyers for the missing dog. They called to say they saw the golden retriever jump into the bay and start swimming. They then ran to a boater and asked him to help.

The Zangaras heard from that boater, Jim Mathis, who was fishing in Barnegat Bay near the Mantoloking Bridge. He couldn't get Chunk on his boat, but he promised he would stay close to Chunk until police arrived.

“He was scared and seemed like he didn’t want to be rescued,” Mathis said. “I was able to get a hold of his collar, but then his collar fell off and that’s when I called the owners and just stayed with him, since he was right in the middle of the thoroughfare where all the boats go through.”

Chunk the golden retriever, missing for more than two weeks, was found swimming in Barnegat Bay in New Jersey and was rescued.
Chunk the golden retriever, missing for more than two weeks, was found swimming in Barnegat Bay in New Jersey and was rescued.

The Zangaras called police to let them know their dog was in the bay. Moments later, state troopers Vincent Ferdinandi and Ryan Koehler with the marine police unit located Chunk in the water. They brought the 3-year-old dog to shore behind a house, where the Zangaras came to retrieve him.

“We got a dispatch call for a dog in the water,” Koehler said. “Once we got a little more information, we put two and two together that it was probably Chunk, because he’s been all over social media over the last couple of weeks.”

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It had been a long two weeks for the Zangaras. Jim Zangara brought Chunk with him on his boat to F-Cove on June 6. He was having a conversation with another boater when he realized his dog had climbed out of the boat and gone into the marsh.

“All of a sudden I turn around and he’s in the woods,” Zangara said. “So I called him, ‘Chunk come back,’ and he turned around and ran.”

Zangara added that Chunk is a timid pet and can easily be scared.

“He’s very timid. He always has been,” he said. “So maybe something scared him and that’s why he took off. It was very odd for him to do what he did.”

Another theory Zangara has is that Chunk was looking for their other golden retriever, Riley, who stayed home that day.

“He’s always looking after her, so maybe he got confused and went to find her,” Zangara said.

Nine-year-old Riley has epilepsy, and Chunk often will alert the Zangaras when she is having a seizure.

Marie noticed that Riley acted differently for the past few weeks.

“She missed him, too,” Marie said. “I could see that she was kind of moping around the house, looking for a little more attention than normally, just not being herself.”

Before this morning, the couple were having a difficult time wondering what happened to their dog.

“It was tough,” Marie said. “I had some really bad days where I would cry myself to sleep at night or wake up in the morning crying.”

But a social media campaign by local nonprofits and members of the community is what gave them some hope.

“The thing that kept us going were all the people on social media who had been phenomenal, posting about him, constantly sending me encouraging messages and asking for updates,” she said.

Chunk, who was overweight before he disappeared, has lost about 20 pounds. The Zangaras brought him to the veterinarian later Tuesday, who performed blood tests and prescribed him medication for ticks.

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But none of that matters. The Zangaras are just happy to have Chunk home.

"It's so amazing to see him again after two weeks," Marie Zangara said. "I still get choked up thinking about it."

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Dog in NJ bay was missing golden retriever: 'like a Hollywood movie'

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