It was a happy family reunion for one beloved dog and his family this week! More than two weeks after he went missing, Chunk the 3-year-old golden retriever was returned to his owners on Tuesday after he was rescued by New Jersey State Police Troopers Ryan Koehler and Vincent Ferdinandi 75 yards from shore in Barnegat Bay on the Jersey Shore.
The story that led to the happy reunion began 16 days earlier when Chunk went missing. The happy canine had been playing fetch with his owners Marie and James Zangara on Sunday, June 6 when he got spooked and ran into the woods, setting off a weeks-long effort to bring him home. According to Ferdinandi, who spoke to PEOPLE following the reunion, a search mission involving social media, local police departments, baited traps, hound hunters, and trail cameras was immediately taken up, with the first sighting of Chunk coming Tuesday morning when two joggers spotted him on the Mantoloking Bridge. However, when the joggers attempted to grab him, Chunk jumped into the Bay.
A Facebook post from the New Jersey State Police said Koehler and Ferdinandi "were preparing for their shift when they were dispatched to the report of a dog swimming in Barnegat Bay." The troopers responded to the call in a 22-ft. Zodiac boat, eventually finding Chunk after he had swum nearly two miles across the bay. They were able to guide Chunk back to land and used a line of rope to lift him onto a dock behind a house. After the ordeal, Ferdinandi said the dog was "extremely tired. Definitely malnourished, hungry." While Chunk initially seemed afraid of the troopers and "kind of backed away from us," Koehler and Ferdinandi kept Chunk close until his owners arrived.
"To see the sigh of relief that a part of their family was back was unbelievable, and the dog was happy to see his family as well. We are just happy that both the dog and the owners can be reunited," Ferdinandi said, with Koehler, who has a rescue Lab/shepherd mix, adding, "I am totally sympathetic."
As for how Chunk reacted to being reunited with his family? The New Jersey State Police said, "he was ecstatic to be reunited with his grateful owners." Their post recounting the story with a happy ending has certainly warmed hearts and has been shared nearly 7,000 times, with many people praising the troopers and their efforts to help reunite the dog with their owners.