When Alexis Lorenz returned a message from a reporter, she identified herself as the one “with the jumping beagle” that leaped off the Burlington-Bristol Bridge in New Jersey and into the water.
Two things: First, Lorenz’s description is accurate, and second, 7-year-old Brandi is alive and well. Lorenz still can’t comprehend that her beloved pet survived the harrowing event Friday night.
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“The experience is surreal, and I can’t believe that it happened and that she’s fine. I had said prayers,” Lorenz, a retiree, said Tuesday afternoon at her home.
Visitors make Brandi, a rescue dog, nervous. Her topaz eyes flanked by huge floppy ears, the 23-pound beagle cowered behind a chair in the family’s living room before timidly making her way to her master’s side. The clinking of a photographer’s camera sent her inching closer to Lorenz.
Brandi’s skittish disposition, the result of unknown trauma when she lived with her original owner, is what prompted the ordeal that played out as Lorenz’s husband, Robert, was walking the two family dogs along the riverfront promenade in Burlington City. Rosie, an 11-year-old beagle, is Brandi’s adoptive sister.
With her soulful, lash-fringed eyes and striking dark brown, red and white coat, Brandi draws plenty of attention, but doesn’t always welcome it. So when passersby began to fawn, the spooked pooch broke out of her harness and took off, according to Lorenz.
Lorenz was home watching television when her husband returned with Rosie and admitted that Brandi had gotten loose while the trio was near the Oneida Boat Club headquarters. The couple packed Rosie back into their truck and rushed back to Burlington City.
Nearly 30 people — including Burlington County Bridge Commission police, a New Jersey State Police marine unit and helpful passersby — participated in the four-hour search, Lorenz said. She canvassed the area on foot, while her husband cruised the streets in his truck.
A motorist on Pearl Street directed them toward the bridge, where another tip was provided by a Bridge Commission employee.
“The toll taker said a dog was running down one of the side streets that runs perpendicular to the bridge. He said he could see that this dog was on a mission,” Lorenz recalled.
Brandi had made her way onto the narrow bridge. Startled by the combination of passing cars and well-meaning pedestrians chasing after her, she jumped.
Onlookers said that they spotted Brandi in the thicket at the base of the bridge, which conjured images of broken legs and worse for Lorenz.
“I had given up,” she said, estimating that Brandi’s jump had spanned 65 feet or so.
Wearing only her bathrobe, Lorenz returned home to change into suitable attire and drove back to the bridge to resume her search.
As she approached the bridge, the headlights captured a sight that flooded Lorenz with relief: Brandi’s eyes. The dog had climbed up the embankment.
It was nearly 1:30 a.m. when the family finally made it back home.
Bridge Commission officers were unavailable for comment Tuesday, but spokeswoman Liz Verna confirmed the incident.
Brandi was spooked but physically fine, except for minor bruising on her belly. The next day, the professionals at the Willingboro Veterinary Clinic gave her a clean bill of health.
Although Robert Lorenz has temporarily lost his walking privileges, his wife acknowledged that he “felt extremely bad” and said she couldn’t imagine how terrible it must have been for him to deliver such scary news.
With walks on hold until she gets a new, veterinarian-approved harness, Brandi has settled back into her usual routine at home.
Despite a basket filled with stuffed dog toys, Brandi is much more interested in food and performs plenty of tricks for her treats, Lorenz said.
She also regularly greets the mail carrier and the UPS driver, who stops in to give Brandi a treat even if he has no packages for the family.
The mother of two grown stepchildren, Lorenz gazed at Brandi as though experiencing parenthood all over again.
“She’s my baby,” she said.
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