Family Fishing Trip That Changed Their Lives

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When Joe Schmelzinger and his family left for their annual trip to the Thousand Islands, they never expected anything out of the ordinary to occur. This time, they were sorely mistaken…

Ordinary Man

Joe lived in Canada all his life. There, he met his wife, Annette, and together they had a daughter, Alivia. Joe spent the majority of his days at the office; in his spare time, he loved to fish, hike, and spend quality time with his family. The Schmelzingers were beloved by their community, but ultimately, Joe’s daily routine remained the same…

Vacation

The Schmelzingers were looking forward to their annual vacation. Every year, they traveled to Lake Ontario for a fishing trip. There, Joe would relax on the boat with his wife and six-year-old daughter. It was his ideal getaway…until something happened that would change his relationship with nature forever.

The Thousand Islands

The Thousand Islands are an archipelago of over 1,800 islands in the St. Lawrence River, which hugs the border between the U.S. and Canada. That day on the river would stay with the Schmelzingers for the rest of their lives.

Quality Time

It was Alivia’s favorite time of the year. Her parents’ hectic schedule meant they didn’t get to spend all their evenings together. On their trip to Lake Ontario, Alivia got to keep her parents all to herself…

Heading Over

Everyone loaded up the car with their bags and fishing gear. Alivia was bursting with excitement…

Beautiful Day

Joe drove for about an hour until he saw the incredible architecture and sprawling lake up ahead…

Afternoon

Once they reached the shore, Alivia and Annette admired the sun sitting high in the sky above Lake Ontario. Joe grabbed their fishing poles from the car…

Riding Out

The three of them piled into a boat and left port. Joe and Annette quickly fixed the bait for their own rods and Alivia’s rod. The three of them drifted out toward the middle of the lake…

Baited and Waiting

Beneath the surface of the lake, there were thousands upon thousands of fish. The water was almost completely clear. Alivia peered over the edge of the boat…

Alone

She could see all the fish swimming directly beneath the surface of the water. Joe peered around. The lake was unusually quiet for a weekend afternoon…

The Biggest Catch

Every year, the Schmelzingers hosted a little competition between them, mostly for Alivia’s benefit. They were “competing” to see who could come back with the biggest catch.

Winding Up

This time around, Joe teased his daughter. “I bet I’ll be reeling in the biggest fish in the whole lake!” he joked, ruffling her hair. Alivia giggled while her mother laughed and rolled her eyes. They had no idea that Joe’s playful jest would soon manifest into reality…

Floating

The three of them cast their lines into the water. The summer sun beat down on them. Joe watched the serene water…

What’s That?

Suddenly, Alivia pointed toward something far off in the distance. “What is that?” she asked. Joe furrowed his brow, squinting in the bright daylight. He couldn’t tell from this far away…

Taking Guesses

Joe motioned for Annette, who came to stand beside them on the boat. He asked if she was able to identify whatever was in the water. She shook her head.

Getting Closer

“Whatever that is, we should take a closer look,” she said. Joe protested. What if it was dangerous?

Moving Forward

Joe begrudgingly lifted the anchor from the water while Annette and Alivia stashed their rods on the boat’s deck. Joe was growing nervous.

Is It Alive?

“It looks like it’s moving!” Alivia said as Joe began to steer the ship in its direction. Annette and Joe exchanged worried glances.

Something is Out There

As their boat approached, Alivia’s expression shifted from excitement to fear. By now, they were deep in the center of the lake. Below them was over 70 feet of water.

Get Help

When Alivia realized what it was, she turned and sprinted to her parents, who were manning the boat. “Help! You guys have to help! It doesn’t have floaties!”

Moving Quickly

Joe and Annette sprung into action. Alivia watched in terror as Joe ran toward the side of the boat, finally realizing what was in the water…

Baby Deer

The mysterious floating object was a baby deer struggling to keep its head above water. Annette had no idea what to do—how did a deer swim this far out on its own? Where was its mother, or the rest of its herd?

Drowning

The deer was visibly terrified, barely able to stay afloat in the deep lake. Joe leaned over the side of the boat. They were just close enough that he could almost reach it…

Capturing the Rescue

Annette took out her phone to film the whole ordeal. Her husband was now elbow-deep in the lake, but the deer was too scared to let anyone near it…

Escaping the Predator

Joe realized how the deer ended up in such a terrible predicament: sometimes, when deer become scared of potential predators, they jump into nearby water to protect themselves. This deer, however, was too young and small to resist the current as it was pulled out toward the middle of the lake…

A Decision

Joe had no choice but to dive into the water. He lept in while Alivia and Annette watched, terrified for the fate of the baby deer…

Joe finally came close enough to the deer that he could grab it in one of his arms while using the other one to paddle them back to safety…

On the Boat

Joe and the baby deer finally made it back to the boat where his wife and daughter were waiting. The deer was so exhausted from staying afloat that it hopped onto the ship’s floor and laid down…

Drying Off

The family grabbed towels and wrapped up the baby deer to keep him warm. By now, he was tired enough that he had fallen asleep. They waited for his racing heart to slow down…

Back to Shore

By the time they made it back to shore, a crowd had gathered. “Did you catch anything?” someone asked. Joe revealed the baby deer he was cradling in his arms. “Just the baby deer!” he said, laughing. Now, what were they going to do?

Getting Back on its Feet

The baby deer was too weak to survive on its own. The Schmelzingers didn’t know what to do…until Alivia had an idea.

Raising the Deer

Alivia wanted to keep the deer as a pet. Although she begged her parents, they knew that their small family wasn’t adequately equipped to handle raising a wild animal. But, in the meantime, Joe and Annette supposed they could compromise…

Their Choice

The Schmelzingers took the baby deer back with them for the night, deciding they would return it to a wildlife sanctuary where it could be properly cared for…

Safe Return

The family nursed the baby deer with a small bottle. Alivia was overjoyed—this was better than anything she could have imagined. The next day, it was time to say goodbye…

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