HOPEWELL JUNCTION – For our members working for the state Department of Transportation, picking up litter and debris off the side of our state roadways is a regular part of the job.
CSEA members Patrick Harden, Edward Matrejek and Federico Larralde were doing just that the morning of July 24 when they pulled off at an area on Interstate 84 near their yard, a place where they often find items such as discarded tires.
As usual, there was debris that needed removal, but as the workers went about their job, they encountered something they hadn’t expected.

‘A scene no one likes to see’
“We figured we’d stop, throw some stuff in the back of the truck, and as we were doing that, we heard a dog bark,” Harden said.
As Harden and Matrejek went to remove an abandoned tire, they both heard more barking.
That’s when they made the discovery of an abandoned pit bull mix dog.
“We dropped the tire and started whistling for him,” Harden said. “He kept barking and we walked back maybe 100 feet off the road and he was tied to a tree there.”
The workers suspected the dog had been tied up there for several days, as the tall grass was now matted down and the dog had dug some holes, presumably to cool down. A days-long heat wave had just broken the day before.
“We walked into a scene no one likes to see,” Matrejek said. “I ran and grabbed my phone and called [police].”
Meanwhile, Larralde ran back to their truck.
“My reaction was to get the dog some water, so I reached for my canteen and any cup that was available that was clean,” Larralde said. “I cleaned it out and just went over to the dog and gave him water.”
As they waited for police, the workers stayed with the dog and continued providing water. While they weren’t sure what kind of reaction to expect, they were met with a friendly dog happy to find the three rescuers.
“He was pretty friendly,” Harden said. “He came right up to us.”
There was no question, however, that the pup had endured suffering before his abandonment.
“There were ribs showing and cuts on the back of his ears,” Larralde said. “I was pretty mad to see that.”

DOT workers rescued this dog from the woods near Insterstate 84.

‘It was a miracle’
State troopers delivered the dog to a nearby police department, where the dog was turned over to the Dutchess SPCA. The dog was scanned there for a microchip and is reportedly doing well, thanks to the road workers who happened to be in the right place at the right time.
“One of our supervisors was saying…’it was a miracle,’” Larralde said.
While they are grateful to have rescued this dog, all three men said they were horrified by what happened to the dog and hope whoever abandoned him will be brought to justice.
“It’s really hard to see something like that,” said Matrejek, who adopted his own dog after she was rescued from a bad situation. “My dog was a dog that was a bait dog for a dog fighter, so just seeing a tied up dog in distress is really upsetting.”
After Harden posted photos of the dog on social media, his post went viral, with more than 1,000 people sharing the post and numerous inquiries about adopting the dog.
Seeing how friendly he was despite such a heartbreaking abandonment, the workers are confident the dog will soon find a loving home.
“It’s a super-friendly dog; I couldn’t believe how friendly,” Matrejek said. “I can’t see why someone wouldn’t want to adopt him.”

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Jessica Ladlee

Jessica Ladlee is the communications specialist for CSEA's Southern Region. A graduate of Boston University, Ladlee is an award-winning journalist who worked as a newspaper editor before joining the CSEA communications team in 2004. She is passionate about the opportunities unions provide for people to join the middle class, something her grandmother did as a Rockland County CSEA member over 50 years ago.

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