HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Some can find comfort in the motto “everything happens for a reason.”
It proved to be true the night of Tuesday, Feb. 16 in Garden City.
A couple took a detour home from dinner at Gulf Stream Café on a beautiful night to enjoy the breeze, and that changed everything.
“We were right here, making a left... God put us in this spot for a reason,” Sharon Chudakowski-Kreiling explained while pointing to the spot between two road signs on South Waccamaw Drive, near Yucca Avenue, where the accident happened.
Her husband, Drew Kreiling, recalled the Feb. 16 night easily.
“Sharon seen a dog and a young man walking on the beach and Sharon watched the dog get hit by the truck. She jumped out of the car,” he remembered.
He said he acted fast.
“I quick spun the Jeep around in front of the dog and Zack so nobody else would come down the road,” Drew said.
The couple said the dog’s owner, Zack Corrado, sprinted to his injured dog, Merlin. The truck’s driver didn’t stop, but the Kreilings and neighbors did.
As the dog’s cries echoed Zack’s for help, people provided towels and quickly acted to get the 160-pound dog into a truck bed.
“Zack thought really fast. He said go get my pick-up. And he backed up, got it right there to Merlin, and got him in the back of the truck. And we were off,” Sharon recalled.
Drew, who was a stranger to Corrado minutes prior, drove Corrado’s truck while Corrado put pressure on the wounds of Merlin in the bed of his truck. Sharon drove ahead to help clear traffic.
“I knew time was of the essence. You know, I didn’t know if this dog was going to live, to be honest with you,” she said.
Drew called 911. He praises the Horry County dispatcher for her help.
The 911 dispatcher merged the Animal Emergency Hospital of the Strand into the phone call as Drew was driving Corrado’s truck, searching for an open animal hospital.
“We hit every light green. We got to the vet hospital, and they were all waiting outside for us. So they came running right out. Zack was yelling for help, he said, ‘Mister, I can’t lose my dog, he can’t die,’ and I told him, ‘We’re not gonna let your dog die. We’re going to make this dog live.’ And then we got there and the doctors took it over from there,” Drew recalled.
As news of Merlin spread among Corrado’s family, they began trickling in to the hospital. The Kreilings knew this wouldn’t be the end of their story with the man they met that night with his dog.
“He gave us a hug when we were leaving. His family came and hugged us, thanked us. Everybody was crying. And that’s when we exchanged names because we didn’t really know his name until then,” Drew said.
It’s now been over two weeks since the hit-and-run. The Kreilings visit Corrado and Merlin often, giving him toys and checking in on his wounds.
Corrado and Merlin are both on the mend from the trauma. After Merlin was stabilized the night he was hit, he was sent to a surgeon in Charleston.
“So when we got him to Charleston, at Veterinary Specialty Care, they were able to rebuild his arm essentially. He has a plate in his shoulder. This pin is running down his humerus, with 16 screws and two wires,” Corrado said as he described Merlin’s surgery. “So there’s quite a bit of metal in there. He’s robo-dog now.”
Recalling Feb. 16 brings tears to Corrado’s eyes. He said he and his 5-year-old Irish Wolfhound frequented the beach often without a leash. It’s legal and was never a problem. Merlin spotted a fox that night, and he couldn’t help but chase it.
“He just had tunnel vision I guess,” Corrado said.
He ran to Merlin as fast as he could and was met by the people he would know as the Kreilings. He said Merlin might’ve not survived without Drew’s quick thinking
Corrado spared no expense to ensure Merlin survived the accident that night.
To make an even better story for the ‘goodest boy,’ Merlin’s vet bills are paid for thanks to the generosity of those who donated on a GoFundMe created by the Kreilings.
“If anyone’s watching this thank you, and if they donated thank you so much for giving to Merlin and Zack. It’s a worthwhile cause,” Sharon said.
“So, we were able to raise enough money to pay his credit card (vet) bills off, $9,000 and some odd dollars. Which is amazing,” Drew shared.
He said it’ll be made out in checks to the veterinary places of care. Merlin has ongoing vet visits as well in Charleston, which Sharon has driven him to.
Touched by Merlin’s story, people from as far as California have sent letters of support to Merlin, according to Drew.
“There’s a lot of good people out there. It made me happy to see that, with everything that’s been going on. There’s good people,” Drew said.
“Zack, Merlin and us have become close friends. Adopted godmother here I think,” Drew said, pointing to his wife. “But it’s a tragic event that could’ve been really tragic, that’s turning out to be a good news story at the end of the day.”
The Kreilings hope people hear Merlin’s story and are inspired to leash their dogs to prevent this accident from repeating itself.
“I just am forever grateful and I’m just so thankful. We’re doing well, he’s doing good. We’re on the mend for sure. He’s the sweetest boy,” Corrado said with a smile.
If you would like to donate to Merlin’s GoFundMe page, click here.