Column: Responding to a distant cry for help

03/18/2018 6:00 AM |

There’s not much Lucie, an 8-year-old chocolate Labrador, can’t do. Except play fetch. Glaucoma claimed her vision in both eyes within three years. She still gets around just fine. She even enjoys swimming.

“Sometimes I kind of forget that she’s blind,” said Charles Turner, Lucie’s owner.

Lucie has been a member of the Turner family since she was 6 weeks old and the size of a stuffed animal. Now, she weighs about 90 pounds.

Lucie enjoys long walks in her Southold neighborhood, but she’s usually pooped afterward and wants nothing more than to lie down. That’s what made the scene in early February so strange.

Mr. Turner and Lucie had just returned from a walk when he noticed a package had been delivered. It was new windshield wipers for his Jeep. He opened the box and went to work changing the wipers when Lucie hurried toward him from the garage and started barking.

“She was acting just strange,” he said. “I’m like ‘What is wrong with you?’ Barking, barking, barking.”

Finally, he got fed up. He decided to take Lucie on a bicycle ride to really give her a chance to stretch her legs. That would tire her out, he assumed.

“We take off and go around the neighborhood and she’s pulling me like a mule,” said Mr. Turner, 57, who teaches NJROTC at North Fork high schools along with his wife, Felicity.

As they reached the opposite side of their neighborhood, Mr. Turner could hear a cry for help. He found a woman lying in the snow, with the temperature hovering the 30s. She had fallen and dislocated her hip.

She’d been calling out for a neighbor, but no one was around. Most of the houses nearby are seasonal.

“I got there and said, ‘Listen, we’ve got to call 911,’ ” Mr. Turner said.

He asked the woman how long she’d been there. She told him 10 minutes — about the same amount of time Lucie had been barking.

Lucie is no stranger to emergency calls. Mr. Turner, a member of the Southold Fire Department, said she’ll always rush to the door when a call comes in for him to respond.

Mr. Turner has been a volunteer firefighter since before he joined the U.S. Navy — about 38 years. About five years ago, he became an EMT as well. While it’s important to have volunteers ready to fight fires, Mr. Turner realized he could be more helpful by assisting in medical situations, because those account for the majority of calls.

“To provide support and help for the community, medical EMT is the way to go,” he said. “It’s also good in life, because you never know when you’re going to bump into something. I work with 280 kids and there’s always something going on with somebody being hurt, bumped, injured.”

On that February day, Mr. Turner found himself in the right place at the right time to assist a neighbor in need — all thanks to Lucie. The woman was safely transported to a local hospital.

As Mr. Turner assisted her, the woman told him she was scheduled to leave that weekend on a trip to Hawaii. Mr. Turner said she had an artificial hip and the doctors “popped it in like a Lego and she was on the plane Saturday morning.”

Mr. Turner estimated that his house is about a quarter-mile, as the crow flies, from where the woman fell. He’s shared the story with his students, who have been amazed, he said.

“A lot of them know [Lucie] because she does some of the weekend events that are outside and they were like, wow, she must have acute hearing,” he said.

A few days after helping rescue his neighbor, Mr. Turner said the woman’s sister-in-law stopped by his house. She showed him a picture of the woman boarding the Hawaii-bound plane.

He also received a box of cookies.

“They were just amazing,” he said.

The author is the editor of The Suffolk Times and the Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at 631-354-8049 or [email protected].

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