TOMS RIVER, NJ — What would you do if you saw a baby animal struggling to swim in a lagoon? Chad B. Wallace of Ringwood says anyone would do what he did: Dive in and save it.
In a video taken by his wife, Cara, that Wallace posted to Tik Tok, you can see the fawn swimming in the lagoon right near the docks and bulkheads of homes.
"Oh my god it's gonna die," one woman says. "I'm not going to let him die," Wallace says, stripping off his shirt and emptying his pockets before he dives in and swims over to intercept the fawn.
You can see the video here.
"We were at a graduation party," Wallace said Wednesday in a phone interview. The party was at a home in the Windsor Park neighborhood. "My wife saw it in the water and ran over and grabbed me. She already knew I would jump in to save it."
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"There's no ladders, nothing he could have climbed out on," Wallace said. "You just have to help."
As Cara shoots the video, the party attendees stop what they're doing to watch, providing a running commentary in the video.
"Who is this guy?" a woman yells, and Cara can be heard saying, "My husband."
"This guy's amazing," another man says.
The fawn goes under a dock briefly and Wallace follows and then emerges, the fawn cradled in his left arm, to cheers from onlookers. He then climbs out of the lagoon onto another property, where the resident pauses to talk with him.
"When it went under the dock, I did too," Wallace said, and was surprised to find he could stand in the sand right by the bulkhead.
"At my parents' house it's 20 feet deep," he said. But being able to stand helped him grab the fawn, and he said he held on tight even as it struggled. "I was scared it was going to run off and wind up back in the water," because there are so many lagoons in the neighborhood.
The resident of the home was surprised to see him standing there with the fawn under his arm.
"He's like, 'What are you doing with that dog?" Wallace said, noting it was late in the afternoon on July 3, and everyone had been celebrating hard all day. "I said, 'Can I cut through your yard to get back?' and he let me out to the front."
Wallace said he walked around the block carrying the fawn to get back to the house where his family was waiting. They called animal control, but after 45 minutes passed, they decided to try to return the fawn to the wild.
A follow-up video shows the fawn being released in a nearby wooded area, with a doe nearby, watching and waiting for the baby to come to her.
"I actually went on Google Maps while I was there to try to figure out where it came from," Wallace said, and he saw a patch of woods across the street from the far end of the lagoon where the fawn had been swimming. He and his wife got in the car and drove to the little wooded spot.
"The mother deer was by the side of the road of the screaming for her baby," Wallace said.
He said the response the video has gotten has blown him away. It got picked up by a company and has garnered 30 million views on Facebook. The Tik Tok video has 7 million views.
"You would have done the same thing," he wrote on a shortened version of the video that he posted to Tik Tok.
"I didn't think it would get as big as it did," Wallace said.
Wallace, who lives in Ringwood with his wife and three sons, raises ducks and works full-time. He grew up in Ringwood and spent summers on Long Island. He only recently began coming to the Jersey Shore; his parents bought their home in Toms River about 15 years ago, and he comes to visit a couple of times a year.