During the four days Jerome Nadler remained missing, after disappearing while fishing in a wooded Smithtown park, his family started to lose hope he'd be found alive.
"It seemed like a dim possibility then," said his son, Matthew Nadler. "I'm very surprised and pleased and I feel very blessed right now."
The elder Nadler, 76, was found lying down and semi-conscious around noon on Thursday by a Suffolk County police dog named Chase, who lay down beside him in the brush and refused to get up until his handlers got there, authorities said.
"We just could not believe that this man was still alive," said canine officer William Krolikiewicz. "For an older gentleman that was in the woods for four days, in my opinion he was in excellent condition."
Nadler, who was dehydrated and covered with bug bites, was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was being treated Thursday afternoon.
"He's a tough individual," his son said.
Nadler, an avid fisherman and Vietnam veteran, headed out on Labor Day to the Caleb Smith State Park Preserve to go fly fishing. The multi-agency search effort began when he never returned to retrieve his parked car.
He was found around a mile from where he'd been fishing, his son said.
Matthew Nadler said he has not spoken with his father in detail about his ordeal, but said he is "awake, alert and oriented."
The younger Nadler had particular praise for New York State Park Police Chief Richard O'Donnell, who he said assured him Wednesday that canines "can do things that feet sometimes can't."
"The dog made all the difference," Nadler said.