Clearly, he is a hero.
“Good boy, Storm!” a man’s voice says in the video, calling to a golden retriever paddling toward a brown lump bobbing in the water of Port Jefferson Harbor off Long Island. Taking it in his mouth, the dog hauls it toward the beach, a moment filmed by his owner on Sunday that has been seen by 5.2 million and counting on Facebook.
The lump was a fawn, which the dog dragged onto the sand. There it lay, alive but barely moving. Storm gently nudged the fawn’s belly. It scarcely responded. He nuzzled it again. Nothing. He pawed at its tiny hooves. Then the video ended. The video footage has launched Storm to sudden social media stardom and sent him on a tour of morning TV talk shows. Banish any thought that the dog, a 6-year-old English golden retriever owned by Mark Freeley, a personal injury lawyer from East Setauket, N.Y., might have simply been following his instinct to retrieve.
Definitely do not imagine that the dog was hungry.
“I was there, and if anybody knows Storm, they know that’s not in his heart,” said Mr. Freeley, who captured the moment on his phone while out with the golden retriever and his other, less famous dog, Sarah, a rescued Border collie. “He is the most gentle, gracious dog you ever want to meet.”
Mr. Freeley, who also fosters rescue dogs and does pro bono legal work for a local animal rescue, said Storm “grasped the deer by the neck — just the way a lifeguard would put his arm over someone’s neck — and dragged him in.”
In the video, Storm licks the deer’s jugular. “It was so touching,” Mr. Freeley said. “It showed he really had a care and was worried about the fawn.”
Mr. Freeley said he left to get help. He called a group he knew, Strong Island Animal Rescue League. Frank Floridia, who runs the organization, arrived with leashes and nets.
By then, the fawn had wobbled back up. It took one look at the men and two dogs and darted back into the water, Mr. Floridia said. “They are animals of flight; they are going to take off wherever they can go,” he said. “In a yard, they will smash through a wooden fence.”
The fawn paddled out again, this time about 250 feet. After a failed attempt by Storm to fetch it once more, Mr. Floridia took off his shirt and, in his sneakers and shorts, swam out and grabbed the deer.
The 3-month-old white-tailed deer had unexplained wounds on its head and one closed eye, he said. Mr. Floridia and his partner, Erica Kutzing, drove the deer to Save the Animals Rescue Foundation in Middle Island, N.Y., where it was in stable condition late Tuesday, said Lori Ketcham, a director of the organization. The fawn was being treated with antibiotics and was drinking baby goat formula from a bowl.