Pets, Pets, Pets – Amityville Record
Shelter Rescue fundraisers are not created equal. Some events weigh heavily on planners and attendees. The Old Sea Dogs’ 4 Mile Swim from the Fire Island Lighthouse is a prime example of “No good deed goes unpunished.” That said, should a good deed be punished twice in a week? Read on, and I’ll explain.
The weather was cooperative on June 29. The actual swim lasted the scheduled four hours and was fine except for a few annoying jellyfish. John Kappenberg, retired school vice-principal and chief lifesaver of Babylon City Ocean Beaches, wanted to swim this four-mile bay side route from Fire Island Lighthouse to Flynns Restaurant to mark his 80th birthday on the day he and his friends face the same milestone were celebrating together and benefiting the dogs and cats of Last Hope Animal Rescue in Wantagh.
John had been inspired to swim by his brother-in-law Tom Collings, a dog lover, retired law enforcement officer, former Zen monk in Japan and meditation and martial arts instructor at the Long Island Asian Studies Center in Bellmore. In October, Tom swam nine miles in Cold Spring Harbor to honor his 70th birthday and raise funds for Last Hope. John asked Tom to come with him on his June swim. And to be sure, they would have the same two kayak escorts -Dr. David Komatsu, professor of medicine at Stony Brook and Andrew Pannullo, Tom’s massage therapist.
“Good deed punished” Take 1- On Monday, June 27, after Tom finished his regular swim practice at the Eisenhower Park Aquatic Center, he discovered his locker had been broken into, his emptied pants and wallet thrown in the trash, and his phone gone. It was a prelude to stealing his car from the parking lot. Tom surmised that his wallet was quickly thrown away after the thief opened it and saw Tom’s retired corrections officer badge. That’s a bad omen for a car thief!
Tom had to do the tedious chores of canceling credit cards, changing the locks on his house, and trying to get a new phone quickly. To make matters worse, his wife’s phone’s internet was down. He was also cut from his swim team and didn’t get my message that the Newsday reporter who made his swim story chose not to cover that swim. He couldn’t tell me that News 12 would feature swimming.
That night, Tom mentioned his stolen car to one of his tai chi students who coincidentally drove his son, also Tom’s student, to a swimming pool in Levittown the next morning. They spotted Tom’s missing car in that parking lot.
Police inspected and then seized Tom’s car on Wednesday morning as Tom was busy swimming four miles along Fire Island. He didn’t get the police report right away. It seems that the thief hastily got out of the car. It was raining when the car was stolen and the windshield wipers were still on. Why did Mr. Grand Theft Auto abandon Tom’s car so quickly? Was he afraid? Or did he break into another pool locker and steal another car?
“Good deed punished” Take 2: While Tom was swimming as Old Sea Dog on Wednesday, his car was still in custody; the mystery still unsolved. John, Tom, and the kayakers came ashore near Flynns at 10 a.m., hid the kayaks on the shore nearby, and walked ten blocks to a house for breakfast and showers, so Tom, David and Andrew be braced for their kayak return to the lighthouse before 2 p.m. currents and tides have strengthened. They were the Cinderellas of the day – invited, but couldn’t attend the 80th birthday ball.
When they returned an hour later, Tom’s kayak was missing. YES, stolen! He searched the area on foot, without success. Shortly after, police on bicycles entered a private marina and found the missing kayak tied to a cruise ship on the dock. David rowed his kayak to the spot and towed the stolen kayak where the trio were able to fit back. The theft of the kayak was either a prank or an attempt to break into an expensive cruise ship. Another mystery. It took the trio three hours to return by kayak, which ended their ten-hour exercise, interspersed with police activity, at 4 p.m.
Stop – how could this happen to Tom again? Two vehicle thefts in three days? For years, Tom studied in the United States and Asia to become a Zen monk and an expert teacher in meditation and martial arts. He has many students and is the author of several books.
When he swam the nine miles last fall, Tom put himself in a mental zone where he could go with the flow indefinitely. Both thefts struck me as a sort of test of his powers to keep his composure. Which, of course, Tom did. When he recounts the crimes, he’s not as frazzled as most of us would be.
Tom sees the upside of this fiasco – his car and kayak were returned undamaged, too; He and John walked the distance safely, despite their combined age of 150. He’s only upset that the thefts diverted his attention from raising funds for Last Hope’s pets.
No, not the flights. Last Hope continues to seek donations, but now in honor of Tom’s perseverance and dedication to our homeless dogs. Donations of any amount may be mailed to Old Sea Dogs’ Swim, Last Hope, PO Box 7025, Wantagh, NY 11793; or by using the designated PayPal link on the Last Hope website.
“When the going gets tough, the tough go away” is attributed to both John P. Kennedy (JFK’s father) and football coach Knute Rockne. I doubt either of these men was ever Tom Collings’ sensei, yet Tom embodies that motto.