When Simon Sheridan set off to the Walking Dunes of Napeague on a frigid Monday evening, he had no idea he would soon become a hero.
While reading a book in the solitude of his car, he realized his dog, Lou, was taking longer than usual to return from his nightly hunt. With the sun about to set, Mr. Sheridan headed toward the dunes in search of the chow-retriever mix, leaving a door open in case he returned.
It was then that Mr. Sheridan heard a faint bark in the distance. He listened, moving closer to the source of the sound, but didn’t hear anything else. Then, a while later, continuing his search, he heard another bark. Still unable to locate his canine companion, the Englishman called out: “If you want me to hear you, you have to bark!”
Sure enough, he was met with a chorus of barks coming from an icy bog, hidden away by the tall grass of the dunes. Standing there, in the midst of the water and the grass, was a dog, but not his own. It was a black Lab, trapped, with its leash wrapped around a small petrified tree.
Unable to reach the animal any other way, Mr. Sheridan stepped into the waist-high, freezing water to rescue the 60-pound dog and took the dog back to his car, where his own dog, Lou, was waiting.
Later that night, after giving the mystery dog food, water and a fireplace to curl up next to, Mr. Sheridan called the phone number on its collar and told the woman at the other end that he had found her dog, Wyatt, who had been missing for more than 24 hours.
Margaret Farrell of East Hampton was still glowing with gratitude as she recalled the fateful tale in front of Mr. Sheridan’s Springs home with Wyatt at her side on Friday morning.
“If [Simon] wasn’t there he would have died, period,” she said, gazing down at her four-legged family member.
Oddly enough, Ms. Farrell said, Wyatt had disappeared exactly four years after the day her family first adopted him from the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons in Wainscott.
“We were at the Walking Dunes in Napeague in Amagansett on Sunday afternoon,” she began. “He was on this leash and we were walking down a really steep dune. I fell back, and he loves taking off all the time, so he took advantage of that vulnerability and just booked off.”
Although she and her family attempted to chase after him, Wyatt made off into the dunes with no sign of stopping.
“We were just walking all around back into Hither Hills,” Ms. Farrell said. “We went until it was pitch black, but we couldn’t find him.”
With night approaching, Ms. Farrell said, she and her family were forced to return to their home in Northwest Woods without their beloved pet.
“Going home that night was the sickest feeling,” she recalled.
Once home, however, she turned to social media in hopes that the East Hampton community might lend a hand in the search or even just keep an eye out for Wyatt. In particular, Ms. Farrell created a post on Bonac Pets, a Facebook group dedicated to helping locate lost East End pets, which was shared almost 300 times in less than 24 hours.
Then, at the crack of dawn the next morning, she returned to the Walking Dunes to restart the search with her husband and Mark Crandall, the owner of Wyatt’s brother.
“It was like hands and knees, underneath pricker bushes following his tracks because he still had his leash on him,” said Ms. Farrell. “So we’re following dog tracks and a line through the snow, that’s how we knew it was his tracks—dog plus this leash line. It went miles and miles and miles.”
Unfortunately, the search led them nowhere, and Ms. Farrell had to leave to pick up her kids at the YMCA RECenter.
She received calls on her cellphone all day long from concerned locals asking if she had found Wyatt and giving her suggestions like cooking bacon at the scene of the disappearance. But it wasn’t until she went home that she received the message she had been waiting for on her home answering machine.
“The number that I had on social media was my cell number, but [Mr. Sheridan] called on my home line, because that’s what’s on the collar.”
Shortly after, the entire family had an emotional reunion with Wyatt at Mr. Sheridan’s home. When Ms. Farrell’s 12-year-old son, James, saw his canine friend, he immediately dropped to the ground and hugged him, shattering his cellphone in the process, Mr. Sheridan recalled.
Ms. Farrell said it was their rescuer who first expressed his gratitude for merely being part of the experience.
“He was thanking me for being part of it,” she said.
For Mr. Sheridan, the rescue was more than just a good deed—it was more like an instance of fate. Mere days before he found Wyatt, he said, he had been considering giving his own dog, Lou, to his wife, with whom he had recently broken up. If that had happened, Mr. Sheridan said, he would never have been at the Walking Dunes that day to rescue Wyatt.
“I nearly did it. The only reason I didn’t is because I love the dog so much,” he said. “So now I’m not going to give him back, because obviously he’s meant to be with me.”
Mr. Sheridan said the experience was not without its hijinks. After he brought Wyatt into his car with Lou, he headed for Gurney’s, hoping to dry off in the sauna, but was so disoriented that he laid his clothing on the coals, where they combusted.
“The trousers burst into flames!” he laughed. “And then the attendant came in and said, ‘You’re a fire risk! Get this stuff out of here!’ And I said, ‘Listen, I’ve been through a lot.’”
Following Wyatt’s reunion with his family, Ms. Farrell took him to the vet, who treated him for injuries to his paws. Wyatt received a clean bill of health after a second visit on Friday. Ms. Farrell said he is returning to his old self thanks to Mr. Sheridan.
“The fact of the matter is, your average person will not go into the water and look for a dog,” she said.
“I’m not your average person,” Mr. Sheridan returned. “Not when it comes to an animal.”
“A person? I doubt I would have gone in for a person, now would I?” he joked.
With one big adventure under his collar, Wyatt may retire from the dunes for a while. However, a stroll through the Springs dog park with his new friend Lou is not entirely out of the question.