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Best friend's bark summons aid

Leonard Fogg and Maui
Leonard Fogg with his best friend Maui, a Bouvier des Flandres.
Maui and Wharf patrons saved Leonard Fogg's life

By Nelson Sigelman - February 1, 2007

As Leonard Fogg struggled in the freezing waters of Edgartown Harbor Sunday night, a Bouvier des Flandres named Maui lived up to his breed's noble reputation as a guardian and protector and saved his owner's life.

There were no cars in the town parking lot and no other people about when Leonard Fogg took his dog Maui for a walk along the harbor about 5 pm Sunday evening. He stopped to look at a solitary boat tied up to the wharf between the Edgartown Yacht Club and Navigator Restaurant.

Mr. Fogg, who is diabetic, leaned forward with his hands on the boat to look at a "For sale" sign in a window. But medical problems followed by a long convalescence had left his arm muscles weak.

"I went to push myself back but I didn't have the strength and all of a sudden I got dizzy," Mr. Fogg told The Times on Monday from his Edgartown home. "And down I went. I hit my head on the dock; hit my back and went under. Oh my God, you can't believe how cold it was. And once I fell in, terror just came over me. I said, I'm going to die, I'm going to die."

Experts in cold-water survival say the first hazards from sudden immersion in cold water are panic and shock. Immersion quickly numbs the extremities, making it difficult or impossible to grasp a ladder or rescue line. In water below 40 degrees, as it was Sunday night, exhaustion or unconsciousness can occur in as little as 15 minutes and death in 30 minutes.

Leonard Fogg, Tom O’Hanlon, Peter Robb, Dave Garvin, and Mike Poirier
Leonard Fogg returned to the dock with his rescuers. (Left to right) Mr. Fogg, Tom O'Hanlon, Peter Robb, Dave Garvin, and Mike Poirier. Front and center, Maui.

Mr. Fogg struggled to stay afloat and screamed for help. His heavy winter clothes became a wet weight. He sank to the bottom.

"I don't know, something inside me just said you've got to try, you can't quit," said Mr. Fogg, describing the instinct for survival that fueled his struggle. He found a foothold on a wooden beam beneath the dock and managed to pull himself up and raise his head above water as the cold water sapped his remaining strength.

According to the American Kennel Club, the Bouvier, also known as the Flanders cattle dog, "is agile, spirited and bold, yet his serene, well-behaved disposition denotes his steady, resolute and fearless character ... He has been used as an ambulance and messenger dog. Modern times find him as a watch and guard dog as well as a family friend, guardian and protector."

As his owner struggled to survive, Maui stood on the dock fixed on his owner and barked steadily and frantically.

About 100 yards up Main Street, Wharf Pub regular Peter Robb of Edgartown, also known as Rico to his many friends, was standing outside the pub entrance enjoying a cigarette and reading the sports section of a daily newspaper.

While a barking dog is not unusual, Mr. Robb told The Times that for that time of the year and that time of the day, there was something about the sound that caught his attention. When he thought he heard a cry for help, he decided to walk down to the water.

"I looked down at the dock, and all I saw was the dog looking down at the water and where the dog was looking there was a hand on the dock," said Mr. Robb, a carpenter for Vineyard Construction Services.

His arrival came just in time for Mr. Fogg. "It seemed like forever I was in the water, and I just knew I didn't have it in me. Then this guy came around the corner because he had heard my dog barking," said Mr. Fogg. "I gave out one last yell and just as I was going down he grabbed my jacket."

The ladders along the dock had been removed for the season so that they would not be damaged by ice if the harbor froze.

According to an Edgartown Police report, Mr. Robb removed his coat and used it to pull Mr. Fogg along the dock to a shallow section in front of the Navigator. Mr. Fogg was so weak he could barely stand. With a surge of strength, Mr. Robb lifted him out of the water, covered him with his coat and ran back to the Wharf to call 911 and get more help.

He returned with Dave Garvin, Mike Poirier and Tom O'Hanlon. Together, the four carried Mr. Fogg back to the warmth of the Wharf, where they quickly removed his clothes and began treating him for hypothermia as Maui anxiously looked on.

When police, EMTs, and an ambulance arrived, Mr. Fogg was sitting in a chair covered in dry clothes and linens. He was transported to the Martha's Vineyard Hospital for treatment and released later that night.

Not sure what to do with the dog while his owner was in the hospital, assistant animal control officer Jennifer Morgan took Maui to the pound for the night. When Mr. Fogg arrived the next day, there was a tearful reunion.

Speaking a day after he helped rescue Mr. Fogg from the harbor, Mr. Robb downplayed his own actions. He said he did what anybody would have done and that the men who carried Mr. Fogg back, bartender Amy Padalino and the responding personnel all played a role. "The dog's the real hero," he said.

Sitting in his living room Monday morning, Mr. Fogg, 63, reflected on an ordeal he said was an emotionally wrenching event and on the dog that helped fill a void left after the death of his wife. "I'm looking at him on the couch now, and I look at him in a totally different light because I wouldn't be talking to you if it wasn't for him," said Mr. Fogg. "But my big boy sitting over there on the couch just looking over here at me saved me. I'm in tears now.

"He is a Bouvier and he is a beauty."

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