Gravesend Characters Past: The Dog Who Would Not Be Saved

Continuing the challenge posed by my fellow members of the Society for One-Place Studies that we blog about 52 residents of our respective places in as many weeks, I turn my attention this time to a troublesome four-legged Gravesender. As the Brooklyn Eagle reported on Monday 9 February 1948:

Cold Dog on Ice Floe Is Hot Potato For C.G., P.D., F.D., A.S.P.C.A.

An ungrateful stray pup grudgingly accepted the hospitality of the A.S.P.C.A. shelter at 233 Butler St. today while the Police and Fire Departments, United States Coast Guard and the A.S.P.C.A. hoped the mutt would never venture onto an ice floe again.

The mongrel, mostly white Spitz, was discovered yesterday sitting forlornly on a six-foot cake of ice in Gravesend Bay, off Bay 35th St. The floe was about 200 feet from shore and 100 feet from the end of a pier. The dog’s plight was noticed by householders who had gathered to get kerosene from the Bay Fuel Oil Co. terminal.

Police Sgt. George Huson of the Bath Beach station, on fuel detail at the terminal, attempted to lure the stray dog to shore by waving some dog food. The pup was not interested. Then August Rizler, 30, of 535 Park Ave., a driver for the A.S.P.C.A., arrived with a rescue truck.

Rizler crawled out on the ice, using several sheets of corrugated sheet steel and three ladders placed end-to-end to get near his quarry. He tossed food to the dog and attempted to drop a net over his head. The dog grabbed the food but backed away and Rizler fell into the water. He got back to the shore, made another attempt and fell in the water again. He got back to shore the second time.

ACME TELEPHOTO of the rescue of the ungrateful pooch from icy Gravesend Bay. Note the arrow pointing to the dog. For orientation, the apartment building at far right is the Lena Arms, at 2315 Cropsey Avenue, corner of Bay 34th Street. [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

Police Launch No. 1 from 39th St., chugged into view off the pier with Sgt. Fred Mohrmann in command. Because of the closely packed ice the launch could not get near the dog.

So Hook and Ladder Company 149 pulled up to the pier and dropped its 85-foot extension ladder. Fireman John Carian climbed to the tip with a 50-foot rope, which proved too short. Then the Coast Guard–skilled in sea-rescues–confidently reached the scene in a cutter, but shallow water kept the 64-foot boat away from the pooch.

Finally, six hours and 15 minutes after rescue attempts had been started, three civilians in a 12-foot sailboat propelled by poles, rescued the dog. They were Fred Landa, 27, of 8871 18th Ave. and Jack West, 38, of 2055 85th St., who operate a flying school near the scene, and Nathan Levy, 32, a pilot.

While Landa and West poled, Levy draped himself over the bow and kicked ice cakes out of the way with his feet. Nearing the dog Landa jumped out and began playing tag with it. As Landa jumped from one cake the dog jumped to another. Finally, he enticed the pooch with some food–after it tried to bite him–and he got into the boat with the dog. Meanwhile, West fell in the water. He, too, climbed back into the boat, which was then pulled to shore with a pier line.

Copyright © 2015 by Joseph Ditta (


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