About a week ago, we were getting ready to take Buddy, our chocolate lab, on his nightly walk. He has been great about using his boarding ramp but got a little overconfident this night. As Sarah was getting ready to attach the ramp to the boat Buddy stepped on it and took a headfirst dive into the bay. It was night time and his color is dark brown so we immediately lost sight of him. A few seconds later he resurfaced coughing out sea water and swimming in circles
He could not have fallen in at a worse time. Night time is shark feeding time and we hear them feeding on Mullet schools around the docks almost nightly and Buddy looks exactly like a seal or otter in the water (and sometimes he smells like dead fish!). To make things worse, he fell in at extreme low tide and we could not reach him from the dock or boat. He was not wearing his harness at the time so using a boat hook was not possible. We kept calling to him to keep him in the immediate area and I ran and grabbed our emergency ladder and attached it to the dock and got into the water with my jeans and polo on. While I was doing this Sarah was getting the lifesling together.
Once in the water, buddy swam away from me so I had to chase after him. I grabbed him and swam him back to the ladder while he was struggling to get away. I now fully understand how rescuers can be drowned saving people in the water. Once at the ladder it was obvious that there was no way to get him back on the dock or boat. I was too tired, the climb up the ladder was too far and he was too heavy!
Sarah dropped the lifesling down and after a few tries I got it it around Buddy and with me stabilizing him she was able to sling him out. Now all I had to do was get out of the water, only problem was I was too tired to climb the unstable rope ladder. Sarah again dropped the lifesling and yanked me right out of the water. Within a couple minutes of getting out of the water something very big was making big splashes under the dock where we were just in the water. Could have been a large tarpon, hoping it was a dolphin or manatee, most likely a shark.
We learned a few things from this experience. First off Buddy needs to have a harness on when he is on the boat so we can pull him out with a boat hook. Secondly, you can lifesling a dog out of the water. Finally we realize how useful and necessary a lifesling is, thanks to Sarah’s parents for getting it for us!