COXSACKIE — Lucy, a 10-year-old bichon-poodle mix, is one lucky dog.
The canine that was thought to be a goner when she ended up in the Hudson River late Saturday night made it across safely by Sunday morning.
Lucy’s owner Tim Symonds, of Lakeland, Florida, is a vendor who sold his tie-dyed shirts and other products at the Coxsackie Riverside Festival on Saturday and described Lucy as a friendly dog that loves everybody and is constantly by Symonds’ side.
“We only go places that are dog-friendly,” Symonds said. “She’s a poodle, so she has a codependent side.”
Symonds was packing up his bus after the festival at about 11 p.m. Saturday when he let Lucy off her leash to run around a bit. She then jumped into the river and started swimming away, he said.
“I hollered at her and she didn’t turn around,” he added.
Symonds called for help and jumped into the river to try and save Lucy, but he could not get to her.
“I noticed how strong the current was,” Symonds said. “It was pretty scary.”
Coxsackie Police Chief Samuel Mento was at the festival and recalled seeing Lucy near Symonds’ bus and described her as a sweet dog.
“I had gone up to this particular gentleman and saw his dog in a bus — I petted his dog,” Mento said. “It [the connection] immediately hit me.”
When Mento and his fellow officers arrived at the scene, he consoled Symonds, who was tearful. The officers scoured the shoreline to look for Lucy, who was thought to have swam toward Spring Island.
“He was frantic,” Mento said of Symonds. “I was almost to the point of tears because I’m a dog lover myself.”
The Coxsackie Hose Company and the D.M. Hamilton Steamer Company were called to assist, festival volunteer Jennie Rundell, of Coxsackie, said. Mayor Mark Evans gave the OK to call in for the fire departments’ assistance, Mento added.
After searching, Mento and Sgt. William Arp heard a high-pitched bark. Both men wondered if Lucy had it across the river, as Mento said he’s had people tell him their dogs swam across the Hudson.
“The current pulled her north,” Mento said.
Lucy is a tiny dog and has plenty of fur, which helped her keep afloat. She was already a third of the way across the river when Mento heard the barking, he said. When the police chief got home, he and his wife researched Lucy’s breed.
“She said to me those (bichon frise and poodles) are both water dogs,” Mento said. “The dog was light enough that it could stay on top of the water.”
Cathy Stall, of Kinderhook, was down by the river in Stuyvesant on Sunday taking bird pictures when she heard barking. She went to the Newton Hook Conservation Area and followed a path that led to the sound.
“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a coyote pup,” Stall said. “I continued and there was this little puppy.”
Stall got Lucy to come and she took the to Animalkind in Hudson to get checked out while she posted information about the lost dog to Facebook.
“When I picked the puppy up, I was happy to know she had tags,” Stall said. “I knew someone had not just dropped her.”
Stall’s friend Alison Russo sent her Facebook post about a missing dog, which Stall did not know about.
“I was fortunate to be down there at the right time,” Stall said. “I could not believe the dog came across the river.”
Symonds and Lucy were reunited at the foot of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge on the Columbia County side, Mento said.
“It was a rather involved process with a happy ending,” Mento said.
This incident was not Lucy’s first brush with death — she has survived hyperbolic anemia, a stomach infection and being hit by a car, Symonds said.
“This is the fourth time she cheated death,” Symonds said. “Now she falls in the Hudson River and swims to the other side in a 4 mph current and survives that — she’s a miracle dog.”
One of the most moving things about the experience for Symonds was the outpouring of support from Coxsackie residents and people of all different backgrounds coming together to help him look for Lucy.
“It’s one of the little things that restores your faith in humanity,” Symonds said. “The heart and soul of that town to me is just incredible.”
Stall also praised the efforts of the Coxsackie community for helping in the search and she was in tears when Symonds and Lucy reunited.
“She was meant to be with him — they’re best friends,” Stall said of Symonds and Lucy. “There was a lot of people involved looking for Lucy — it was very heartwarming.”
Lucy is doing well, but is tired after swimming across the Hudson, Symonds said. The pair is traveling to more festivals across the state and in western Pennsylvania before heading home to Florida, he said.
“She’s sticking maybe a little bit closer,” Symonds said.
Rundell said in any situation where someone needs help, Coxsackie residents will lend a hand. She added she was happy to see Lucy’s return and shared the happy news on Facebook.
“We will stay until the situation has been solved,” Rundell said. “I’m a pet owner myself and if it was my dog that fell in the river, I would do exactly what Tim did.”
To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.