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German Shepherd

Officer Michael Cassidy with Thor, left, and Officer Christopher Fezza assisted the Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct with saving a man who was about to hang himself in a wooded area in Stony Brook. Photos from Suffolk County Police Department

A German Shepherd recently proved why dogs are man’s best friend.

A Stony Brook man is alive today due to the efforts of a dog named Thor and two Suffolk County Police Department canine section officers, Michael Cassidy and Christopher Fezza. On April 30, after an unsuccessful attempt by police to find a suicidal man in a wooded area near Seabrook Court, 6th Precinct officers called the canine section unit for assistance.

“There was one point that the ladder started to fall, and I didn’t know how long I could hold onto the ladder or hold him up.”

— Christopher Fezza

When Cassidy and Fezza arrived on the scene, Cassidy said Thor was brought to the last place where it was believed the victim was seen. From there he followed the missing man’s scent, and the officers were able to find him. When they discovered him in the woods, he had climbed a ladder and had a noose around his neck.

Fezza said he climbed the subject’s ladder in order to hold him up and take the tension off the noose.

“There was one point that the ladder started to fall, and I didn’t know how long I could hold onto the ladder or hold him up,” Fezza said.

Another 6th Precinct officer was able to steady the ladder, and Cassidy handed Fezza a knife to free the man.

“Having officer Fezza with me was essential in the success in saving this individual’s life,” Cassidy said.

Fezza, who has been with the canine unit for more than a year and with SCPD for 10 years, said it was all in a day’s work.

When it comes to finding an individual, Cassidy, who has worked with seven-year-old Thor since he was 10 months old, said German Shepherds, unlike Bloodhounds, don’t need a piece of a person’s clothing to find them and basically go by ground odor. Cassidy said once a victim is found, he has to stay by Thor.

“You take them into an area and whoever was the last person there, that dog will pick up their scent.”

— Michael Cassidy

“You take them into an area and whoever was the last person there, that dog will pick up their scent,” Cassidy said. “And once they have that scent, they’ll stick with that. They will discriminate from other scents and they will continue to track that scent.”

The officer, who has been with the police department for 27 years and with the canine unit for 18, said he and Thor quite often respond to calls involving a suicidal person, and the incidents have increased over the years, he speculated as a byproduct of the heroin and opioid addiction crisis.

Both Cassidy and Fezza said most people go into police work to help others, and it doesn’t get better than saving someone’s life.

“It’s definitely rewarding when you’re able to locate a subject and prevent them from actually killing themselves,” Cassidy said.

Once the victim was rescued, he was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for evaluation.

File photo

Suffolk County Police arrested two men and charged them with aggravated animal cruelty after retrieving a pair of badly injured dogs from a Huntington yard in “squalid” condition last Thursday, police said.

The men, Errol James, 55, of Denmark Court in Huntington and Derrick Simon, 54, of Nostrand Avenue in Central Islip, were arrested and charged with torturing and injuring animals. Police said the two dogs were kept at James’ home in “squalid and unsanitary conditions with no food or water,” and in a kennel “contaminated with feces and debris.”

When Huntington Town Animal Shelter Director Jerry Mosca got to the scene, he said he observed the two dogs, a female German shepherd and a male black and white pit bull, “killing each other in the backyard.” Shelter officials took the dogs to an animal hospital in Northport.

“I don’t know how you can come home, no matter who you are as a human being, to see the shape these dogs are in and actually live with yourself,” Mosca said. “I just don’t. I don’t get it.”

The pit bull’s ear was torn off, and an eye was punctured, and it had lacerations all over its face and body, Mosca said. The German shepherd had puncture wounds all over its legs and torso, severe ear infections and was “bleeding profusely,” he said.

“Just both of them were in very poor shape, dirty, feces on them.” Mosca said.

As of Wednesday, the dogs were back in the shelter and were doing much better and are showing signs of being friendly with humans, he said.

“They’re healing up great. They’re really showing signs of being healthy.”

The two men were arraigned on Friday. Larry Flowers, a Huntington attorney representing James, had no comment. Attorney information for Simon was not available.