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Montana born dog swims Hudson River from NYC to New Jersey

Bear the puppy.jpg
Posted at 4:33 PM, Dec 10, 2022

BILLINGS — Going from Montana to the Big Apple is quite the change for a puppy and one adventurous little guy recently made national news after an adventure that was fit for a movie.

Bear, the Leoberner, gave his new owners quite the scare that included multiple days missing and a frigid swim across the Hudson River from NYC to New Jersey.

Bear was born in Harlowton, Montana in June and is a mix between a Burnese Mountain dog and a Leonberger. The day after Thanksgiving, he set out on his first big adventure to meet his new family. After a few days in New York, he went on another, unexpected adventure after slipping out of his collar.

"I was walking with him to get a harness and we were walking across the street. He had a collar on, and he stopped in the middle of the street. I pulled one way, and he pulled the other and then his collar came off and then he just ran and ran and ran. So, he ran about a mile and a half, along the Hudson River on the Westside highway and then jumped in the water on 110th and swam a mile to New Jersey. And it was really nasty out, so we were really terrified," said Ellen Wolpin, Bear's owner.

Wolpin immediately called 911 but after days of searching, she nearly gave up hope.

"Patrol boats were out looking for him they couldn’t see him; they couldn’t find him. Then two days later, I got a phone call from the police department in New Jersey that they had found him," added Wolpin.

That call was made possible because of a microchip installed by Bear's breeders in Montana.

"That microchip got them home. We got a call at three o’clock in the morning from Edgewater police department in New Jersey and the microchip was linked back to us. Because we were the breeders and ones that installed the chip," said Todd King, owner of Big Sky Bernels.

A process that King calls invaluable.

"None of the pups leave our house without being microchipped and I’m really happy that we have that rule. This is the only time we’ve ever had a call, but Bear was found because of it," added King.

King says, "Leoberners are tough" but even he was surprised with the resiliency of the 6-month-old puppy.

"With the water being so darn cold there, I’m not sure exactly how cold it is, but I’m sure it’s in the 40’s this time of year. And that’s a long time for that pup to be in that water but, he made it," King added.

Now that Bear is back from his big adventure, he’ll be starting training to become an emotional support dog.

"My son has a seizure disorder so we’re going to work with bear to start being an alert dog when Zach seizes. Right now, bear follows Zach around, sleeps in bed with him and Zach just sits there and loves this dog," said Wolpin.

A bond with Bear and her son that she briefly doubted would have the chance to flourish when Bear got away.

"I never really got my head around what happened honestly. By the time I started thinking about what happened, I got the call that he was found, which set off another thing of how could this be true? How did I get so lucky?" Wolpin added.