Teen Rescues Lost Dog From ‘Ruff’ Waters

Brady Walsh jumped into the frigid waters of the Navesink River to rescue a dog he didn’t know. The reunion between Brady and the German shepherd mix Loki was a lot more fun than their first meeting. Courtesy Meredith Kole

By Elizabeth Wulfhorst

RUMSON – Name a dog after the Norse god of mischief and you should expect some high jinks. But the German shepherd mix Loki really lived up to his name last week, taking his family, a heroic teenager, the police and an entire community on an adventure that could have ended in heartbreak.

Meredith Kole, a graphic designer who lives in Rumson with Loki, another dog and her four children, was having a fairly normal morning March 29 before Loki sent her day into a panic.

As she explained it, Kole left the house around 10 a.m., speaking to Loki, as she often does, in a sing-song voice about her eldest son Max, 20, who is away at college.

“(Loki’s) very close with Max,” Kole said, explaining how Max was the one who pushed to rescue a dog during the pandemic, after what had already been a rough couple of years for the family.

A combination of Kole taking Max’s car keys with her and a broken window conspired to create the events that followed. “I said goodbye to Loki and went outside and started Max’s car.” Although the window was closed, “Loki knows how to lift it with his snout, I guess,” Kole said.

“I think what happened is he thought I was going to get Max and he lifted up the window and I backed out of the driveway and he flew out of the window and went after me.”

Kole’s oldest daughter quickly noticed Loki had absconded. She called Kole who immediately drove to an area near Salt Creek Grille, the restaurant on Bingham Avenue where they had found Loki the one other time he ran off a few years ago.

Not seeing him anywhere, she called the Rumson police, surrounding police departments and the Monmouth County SPCA as Loki is microchipped. The hourslong search for their pet that ensued involved family, friends, neighbors and the police. Kole’s seventh-grade twins arrived home at 1 p.m. from a half day of school and immediately put the news on social media. Soon 12- and 13-year-olds on bikes and on foot and high schoolers in cars joined the hunt, “but there was no sign of him.”

Enter 17-year-old Red Bank Regional junior Brady Walsh.

Brady and a friend were fishing for stripers near Salt Creek Grille that late af- ternoon when he noticed a dog in the Navesink along a seawall. “He was swimming towards me and I went up to go see what was up and tried to get a hold of him. And I guess he got scared or something and then started swimming,” Brady said. “But instead of swimming back where he came from, he started swimming towards the Highlands.”

Brady said he, his friend and the other fishermen tried calling the dog back to the shore but he continued swimming farther out into the river.

“We had no idea what he was doing and I knew I was gonna have to go in.”

With little thought about the river temperature, Brady stripped off all his gear, leaving just his pants on, and dived in. “I started swimming for a little bit until the dog was so far off that if I kept swimming I would have drowned.”

While his decision to swim after Loki was ill-advised – “my friend told me not to go in” – Brady said he knew at some point the dog was going to drown. “I couldn’t let that happen.”

Realizing Loki was too far out to reach by swimming, Brady turned around, swam to a dock and ran back to where he had been fishing. There another fisherman helped him grab a paddleboard and oar from the backyard of a home. Brady couldn’t see Loki anymore but paddled toward where he thought the dog was headed. After a few minutes of hard paddling, Brady came upon Loki and managed to pull all 75 soaking wet pounds of him into his lap on the paddleboard.

“Thirty seconds more and I don’t think he would have made it,” Brady said. “When I pulled him up on the board, he was just a dead weight, no energy.”

At that point, Brady and Loki were nearly in the middle of the river. “The current had swept us even further out so we were about halfway between Rumson and the Highlands,” he said.

Exhausted and cold, Brady began paddling back toward Rumson when assistance came in the form of Rumson-Fair Haven High School crew coaches.

According to Coach Chris Seslar, he and assistant coach Ed Riley were just finishing up practice when a police officer pulled into the boathouse lot and told them about the situation, asking if they could help look for Brady and Loki. “We ran back down, hopped on our (coaching) launch and got over to the other side of the river as quick as we could,” Seslar said. “We were looking around for maybe three or four minutes and then spotted them on the paddleboard.”

Seslar said they got Brady and Loki into the boat and noted both were freezing. “They were both definitely pretty shot from the ordeal,” Seslar said. He removed his survival suit – something coaches wear on the water when the weather is cold – and put it on Brady.

Shivering, lightheaded and thirsty, Brady sat in the boat spent. “If I didn’t have that it would have been, I think, a lot different,” he said.

Back at the dock, the police were waiting, as were the Koles, who had already been notified by the police that Loki had been spotted in the river, and Brady’s parents. Brady spent a few minutes in a police car with the heat turned on high until EMS arrived and took his vitals, deciding then he needed to go to the hospital.

“My mom was pretty scared,” Brady said.

In the mid-40-degree temps of the water that day, Seslar said hypothermia can set in and “you lose extremity function within like five or six minutes at most.”

“We have a general rule of thumb – if the air and water temperature combined is below 90 degrees, so below 45 for both of them – then we don’t go out on the water and we were just right on the cusp of that that day,” Seslar explained.

At the hospital nearly 30 minutes after leaving the water, Brady’s body temperature was only 93 degrees.

Doctors gave him an IV of “warm liquid” and put him in “a big bubble with hot air” for a few hours to warm him up.

“My mom kept saying how lucky I was, but they were both happy. They were proud of me that I did it,” Brady said.

Sesler was also happy everything worked out the way it did. “I mean, it was just a really cool event to be a part of and help out with. What Brady did, going out and grabbing Loki, was just incredible.”

Brady is currently working with the Little Silver Fire Department to get his certification and eventually wants to be a New Jersey State Trooper.

“I’m just so blown away by Brady Walsh’s act of heroism,” Kole said, who noted Loki is doing fine after his adventure. “It’s very hard to have a child really risk and not even think twice and just do a good deed,” she said.

“The truth of the matter is, Loki would have drowned and we would have never ever seen him again nor known what happened to him” if Brady hadn’t rescued him, Kole said.

Losing Loki “would have been so traumatic on so many levels,” she added. “He’s been the best thing that happened to my family.”

Kole told Brady to “remember this moment.”

“As you grow and you become an adult, you’re going to be off balance,” she told him. “This feeling that you have right now – that you saved somebody, this thoughtless, crazy thing that you did – please remember this moment because it will get you back on track and it will set you on the path to success.”

Wanting Brady to be recognized and thanked for his bravery, Kole wrote a letter to RBR’s principal and recommended Brady as Student of the Month.

But Kole said it isn’t just Brady whom she needs to thank. “There’s something about this town,” she said. “When people need help, everybody rallies and that is really priceless.”

The article originally appeared in the April 6 – 12, 2023 print edition of The Two River Times.