Oct 05

A Brave Young Man

From The Worcester Telegram — August, 1900

Joseph RyanWorcester, Mass: Joseph M. Ryan, of 36 Malvern Road, risked his life at noon yesterday to save a drowning dog. He plunged into Stillwater pond wearing only a pair of overalls, swam fifty yards to where a dog was struggling for life and helped the creature to reach the shore. Ryan was exhausted and thoroughly chilled, but he saved the dog. He did his heroic act in the presence of many men and women employed in the South Worcester mills.

Ryan (right), is a modest and gentlemanly young fellow of 23 or thereabouts, and is employed as a carpet weaver in M.J. Whittall’s mills in South Worcester. The dog whose life he saved at the risk of his own was a homeless vagrant who had lost his master or whose master had lost him. The dog has been hanging around the mill yards for several days, and at noon the mill operatives have been accustomed to share with the homeless canine, their dinners. They called the dog Ben. He seemed to be a good natured cur, and would whisk his stubby tail in a friendly way whenever any of his new-found friends accosted him. Ever since the early part of the week Ben showed a fondness for Ryan, more than for any other person at the mills. His greater friendliness was caused perhaps by the fact that Ryan never stinted the homeless dog from his dinner pail.

The young men who work in the mill, after eating their dinners, have played with Ben, and yesterday they were enjoying their noon hour with their canine play follow. Sticks were being thrown into the water, for which Ben would swim out into Stillwater pond and would proudly bear them to shore in his mouth. For nearly an hour yesterday the boys kept throwing sticks out into the pond as far as they could cast. but Ben never hesitated to try for them. At last he became fatigued and his swimming became slower and more labored. He was getting fagged out, but on being urged he bravely tried once more to recover a stick. “Sick ‘im, Ben,” the boys urged, and brave Ben, with his shaggy coat soaked with water and trembling with cold and exhaustion, “sicked ‘im” in the most courageous fashion.

His last swim was slow and outside the limit of his strength. The dog was headed for shore, but was a long way out in the cold water and was swimming slowly and faintly. About fifty yards from shore there is a straggling clump of weeds and matted bushes springing from the bed of the pond. Into this tangle poor Ben swam weakly, and could make headway no farther. He was making a brave fight for life, when the boys noticed his struggles and saw that the dog was drowning. A faint yelp or two was heard as the dog appealed to his human playfellows for aid. He sank once and tried to struggle out of the mass of weeds. He emitted a pitiful cry, and Ryan heard him.

“Going to let that poor dog drown?” he yelled from the window of the mill, from which he had been watching the fun.

Nobody volunteered to save the dog, and Ryan, realizing the creature’s imminent peril, jumped from his window seat and ran to the boiler room. He hastily divested himself of his clothes, kicked off his shoes and stockings and pulled on a pair of greasy overalls. Then he ran to the edge of the pond. The water was icy cold, but he shivered only once on the brink and then plunged in.

“Hold on, Ben, old man, I’m coming,” he called out to the drowning dog, and then with powerful strokes he made for the clump of weeds. Ben saw him coming, and if ever a dumb animal tried to let his preserver know he appreciated the rescue, poor, homeless Ben did. He struggled even more frantically to keep himself afloat until Ryan reached him. About forty yards from shore, when he was nearing the dog, Ryan had a severe chill and became afraid of cramps. His strokes became weaker and the men on shore became alarmed for his safety. “Come back, Joe,” one young woman called to him. “The dog ain’t worth it. You’ll be drowned.”

If Ryan heard her voice he paid no heed but gritted his teeth and swam grimly and bravely on to where Ben was giving up the weary struggle. He reached the dog after a long, cold swim, and placed one arm under the animal’s body to keep him afloat. The cold had stricken Ben to the core and he was so chilled that he could move his fore paws only feebly in making shoreward. Ryan felt his strength giving out on account of the strain of his long, cold swim, and as he faced to land the spectators saw that his face was purple with cold.

Ben seemed to know that Ryan was trying to save him, and all the way to the shore the faithful creature tried to lick the brave hand that was keeping him from death. The dog whimpered all the way to the shore and moaned as if he realized how close to death he had come. Ryan was weak and half dead with cold and fatigue, when at last he swam into shallow water with his friend, the homeless dog, safely held up.

While Ryan was making his brave rescue not a sound was made by the anxious people on shore, but when he waded onto land weak, chilled and dripping with ice water with the dog, a shout went up that was heard over on Southbridge street.

Ben was too weak to stand when he was battled out of the pond, but his gratitude was none the less evident. He attempted to lick Ryan’s hand and tried to follow him to the boiler room. Ryan got a good rubdown from the men and got into dry clothing in the boiler room as quickly as possible. He was none the worse last night for his early season swim. Ben was given a thorough warming and was dried comfortably. He went home last night with his best friend, Joe Ryan.

Editorial Comments:

That young man is entitled to more praise and honor than hundreds of soldiers who gain laurels on the battlefield. When we read this proof of his humanity and bravery we sent for his likeness and now present it to our readers. We do not know to what religious sect he belongs. but we do know that he has the right kind of religion, by whatever name it may be called, and if he does not get a good seat in heaven we don’t want to go there, and we think that “Ben” ought to be admitted there, also. We tried to procure Ben’s likeness, but failed.

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