MIDDLETOWN — It’s the Christmas season and here’s a feel-good Christmas week story.
Last Monday, Bernadette Graham of Pearl St., took her two dogs for a walk into Veterans Park. She likes to walk through the park, down the trail to the footbridge that connects the park with Palmer Field, the local baseball/football facility.
The recent cold weather put a cover of ice on the Coginchaug River, which separates the park from Palmer Field.
On the weekdays, members of Middletown High School’s indoor track team practice by running long distance from the high school on LaRosa Lane, southward on Newfield St., then through the park, looping back to the high school.
Around 3:30 Monday afternoon, Graham, who is approaching senior citizenhood — no gentleman asks a lady’s age — walked her dogs across the footbridge. Rex, a 65-pounder, scampered out on the ice. In the middle of the river, the ice was thin and could not support his weight. The dog fell in and was unable to get out.
“I screamed and screamed for help,” Graham said. “Then I see these kids come running.”
Dylan Karpel, a junior cross country runner and a member of both the indoor and outdoor track teams, was first on the scene.
“He didn’t waste any time,” said Graham. “He ripped off his running clothes and went out on the ice and into the freezing water to try to save Rex. The ice was not thick, so he couldn’t reach Rex by staying on the ice, so he used some logs to try to get to him.”
Other members of the team, namely Ariana Monarca and Nicole Nenninger, came running and along with Karpel, continued trying to use heavy logs to get to the struggling dog.
“I heard the lady screaming. so I ran to where she was and saw Dylan in the river trying to get to the dog,” Monarca said. Others from the team — Megan Hodge, Matt Lecky, Konstantin Ditc, Michael Katz and Alexa Gonzalez — all were on scene.
After failing to get to the dog from the more solid ice, Karpel, clad only in running shorts, went into the frigid water and by using one of the logs to direct the dog, grabbed him and pulled him up on the more solid ice and carried him to shore.
“He didn’t try to bite, he didn’t struggle, but he was really heavy,” Karpel said.
Graham, who professed her deep love for her two dogs, said, “All Rex did was look like he was happy to be saved.”
The kids, after bundling up Karpel, refused any reward, but Graham persisted. She called the school and got through to Director of Athletics Elisha De Jesus and the kids were tracked down.
“Ms. Graham was crying on the phone she was so happy that Dylan and the rest of the kids saved her dog,” De Jesus said. “She wanted to come to school and personally thank them.”
On Wednesday, Griffin came to Middletown High School and met with all the kids from the indoor track team and presented Karpel with a card of thanks and a monetary reward for not caring about himself, and for saving Rex.
Graham reported that except for a few scratches, Rex is doing fine.