She has her own Facebook page, her own Instagram account and her very own happy home, thanks to Champaign science teacher/puppy rescuer BRYANT FRITZ. (Or Dory’s Dad, as he’s known by the masses who saw him tell his story, then propose to longtime girlfriend Krystal Moya, on ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ earlier this month). Now that things have settled down a bit for the Eastern Illinois grad — next step: preparing for a wedding — Fritz spoke with Editor Jeff D’Alessio about how to spoil a deserving dog, fishing at Kaufman Lake, his drumming days, another great save he made over the summer at Lake of the Woods and much more.
First things first: How’s Dory adjusting to her new digs?
She’s finally home and absolutely loving it. She’s acting just like a 5, 6-month-old puppy should. She loves treats, toys and her new doggy brother Finn, who is also a rescue. It’s just amazing to have her home finally.
Just how spoiled is she?
She is so spoiled. But we’ve always done that to our dogs. She’s a big fan of treats, and I have to stop myself sometimes because she knows that even a simple tail wag will persuade me at times. She also really loves playing with her new toys. She has so many it’s hard to choose a favorite, but she’s been spending a lot of time with a particular stuffed elephant friend.
Every dog has their own personality. How would you describe hers?
She’s an absolute sweetheart and her spirit is unbreakable. She loves every dog, cat and person she meets. I knew we would love her no matter what but even I was surprised at how beautiful her personality is.
She’s all about kisses and cuddles, too. She’s my hero and my miracle.
Other than getting a ‘yes’ to a marriage proposal on national television, what’s been the most I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-to-me moment since news spread of your Kaufman Lake rescue?
It’s still pretty strange being recognized in public.
The other day, I ran into Walmart to get some puppy potty towels and was stopped five or six times. Yesterday, I ran into Schnucks before school to get batteries for my science classroom and was stopped twice.
Everyone is really kind, so I’m trying to have a good sense of humor about it.
What sorts of things did you hear from your students as word spread about what you’d done?
I love my students. They’ve been really sweet and supportive. They keep telling me, “You’re famous!” I remind them I’m just their science teacher.
I’ve also heard from several of my former students. It’s been so nice hearing about all their success in high school, college and beyond. It does make me feel old, though.
We see Dory Fritz has her very own social-media accounts, which judging by the friend and follower numbers seem to have caught on.
I’ve received a lot of messages from people all over C-U, the U.S. and even other countries. There were so many requests for people to be a part of her life and her new adventures.
Have you always been a dog guy? Anyone who watched your segment on ‘Ellen’ now knows you had Ozzie before Dory.
I never had dogs growing up. Krystal and I were on a date and visiting a shelter in college when I met Ozzie. He jumped up on me, wrapped his paws around me and wouldn’t let go.
I’ve always liked dogs, but there was something special about our connection. We came back a few weeks later and Ozzie was still there. We filled out the paperwork on the spot, and it was one of the best decisions of my life.
I felt the same connection with Dory when I saw her, too.
Before rescuing Dory, what’s the good deed you were proudest of?
Fishing seems to bring me a lot of enjoyment and drama at times.
This past summer, I was pulling my boat out of Lake of the Woods in Mahomet. A car went off the bridge by the dam next to the ramp. The young couple tried to reverse and the front of the car went into the water.
They were scared to get out and I’m not sure if they knew how to swim. I grabbed my tow rope out of my truck and convinced another gentleman to help pull it out to safety.
We were all pretty shaken after. I think it taught me a valuable lesson about how to react immediately when you see people in trouble. I think that lesson helped me with Dory, too.
Have you set a date/place for the wedding?
Not yet. The folks at Flora Gems here in Champaign were really helpful the day I told them I needed a ring ASAP. Krystal was out shopping and I had about an hour to pull it off.
Things have been pretty busy with Dory coming home, but we’re looking forward to planning our next special moment very soon.
We also learned on ‘Ellen,’ care of Krystal, that you first caught each other’s eye while you were singing on open-mic night in Charleston. Do you remember the song, and can you carry a tune?
Ha ha. I don’t remember the song. I was still pretty nervous after seeing her and knew I would probably meet her after because we had some mutual friends. I’ve always loved music. She thinks I’m a great singer. I think I’m OK.
During your days at Eastern, you played the drums in the band Andy Van Slyke. We assume the name was in honor of the former Cardinals and Pirates outfielder?
I really am a music and band geek at heart. Drums were always my favorite.
I’m actually a big Cubs fan, but the other guys in the band were big baseball fans as well and we just enjoyed his name. We never took ourselves too seriously. We just liked hanging out, playing together and having fun.
Do you still play?
My friends ask me this question a lot. Many of them still play in bands in the Chicago area. I still play now because I enjoy practicing and it brings me a lot of joy and relaxation.
I would really like to play again with a group someday, though.
A fishing question, given that’s what you were about to do when you spotted Dory, caged in the water: What can one catch in Kaufman Lake?
I’ve fished at Kaufman Lake for many years and always practice catch and release there. It’s stocked with bass, catfish and even rainbow trout.
The Champaign Park District does a great job maintaining the site and keeping the lake healthy. It has a nice pier that’s accessible for everyone to enjoy.
What’s your dream fishing trip?
I’ve never been to Canada. I think that would be really neat.
When people hear about how much I enjoy fishing, they are shocked that I haven’t made the trip yet. The scenery up north is really pretty.
Have a secret bait?
I have a few, but a good fisherman never shares his secrets.
What’s the biggest fish you’ve ever reeled in?
I caught a 42-inch musky several years ago in northern Wisconsin with two of my best friends, Chadd and Paul.
We were in a tiny 14-foot aluminum boat and the wind was gusting so hard. It was miraculous that they landed it for me, and a special memory I’ll never forget.
What’s your favorite thing about teaching science?
This is a really difficult question. Teaching can be a high-stress job at times, but as an educator, it’s rewarding to know that we make a significant impact on the lives of our students.
Like I mentioned before, I really enjoy hearing about all of their success. Learning should be fun. We have a lot of fun in my science classroom.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Have any memories of an experiment gone wrong while you were a kid scientist yourself?
My Mom was an English teacher and my Dad taught business and coached baseball. I don’t remember any crazy disasters in the kitchen, but I always did enjoy making things and was curious about how things worked.
I try to incorporate these engineering opportunities in my classroom whenever I can. I think curiosity is a truly valuable trait for my students.
What’s the movie or TV show you can’t get enough of, no matter how many times you’ve seen it?
‘Caddyshack’ always gets me laughing. Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield. I found the vinyl soundtrack in a thrift store a few years ago. I was pretty excited.
Krystal and I watch a lot of “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” too.
How about the sports star you idolized most as a kid?
This is pretty telling. My first pet was a goldfish named Michael Jordan. When he passed, I buried him underneath my basketball hoop in the driveway.
Seven-year-old Bryant thought he would have liked that. I think he did.
Three things on your rest-of-my-life bucket list?
There are other things of course, but I feel like these are most important for me to remember:
Be the best husband and doggy dad for my beautiful Krystal.
Give back to our C-U community and volunteer as much as I can.
Spread the message about responsible pet ownership and adoption. The shelters have amazing animals in need of homes and love. They will change your life. I promise.