It has happened to many of us. We’re fishing somewhere, anywhere when the unexpected occurs, something so unusual and so surprising you have to believe a higher power played a role. This real life fairy tale ends in one such miracle.
We’ve all heard stories of swimmers being dragged out to sea. Rip currents…rough surf…whatever the case, it happens. We’ve also heard of boaters lost at sea after an unexpected capsizing or accidental collision. In either case, the statistics are saddening as only a small percentage of these incidents end in joy. Once you are in the water for an extended period of time, chances of survival drop drastically with each passing hour. This is true even across South Florida where hypothermia is a real possibility. This isn’t the Bering Sea, but float around in 82 degree water for long enough and you’ll lose sensitivity to your extremities. Not long after that and it’s lights out. For anyone to survive these elements for an extended period of time is amazing. For man’s best friend to do it is nothing short of remarkable.
The story starts one February afternoon when I needed to blow off some steam. Some guys suck down a 12-pack and some go to the gym, but I go fishing. Like I’ve done a hundred times, I launched my Carolina Classic and headed out in search of anything. Truthfully, I’m happy with barracuda.
My routine was simple…run out into the Gulf a few miles and throw out a couple of lines. After an uneventful first hour, it was time to move on. That’s exactly when a distinct shape in the water caught my eye. No more than a hundred feet away I saw what I first thought was a bobbing coconut. However, the coconut was steadily moving straight toward me at a fair rate of speed!
I refocused and realized this was no coconut, but a seal. Yes, a seal! I’ve been fishing for a long time, and I’ve never seen a seal. In total disbelief, I looked around to see if anyone else saw what I saw, but there wasn’t another boat in sight! By now, the seal closed the gap and was only a boat’s length away. Shocked, I couldn’t take my eyes off the large brown eyes desperately peering straight back at me.
Wait a second…this was no seal at all! As the animal swam alongside and came into clear view, I could see it was a large dog! Instinctively I reached over the side, grabbed the soaking wet animal with all my might and hoisted the exhausted pooch onto the deck. I was astounded! Miles from shore, and of all things a dog swims up to my boat. Clearly, the fatigued animal was seriously traumatized. Its face was covered in blisters, and through its matted hair I could see its skin looked like a rotten orange. This dog was in the water for a long time and was now clinging to life.
He sat there, spent and barely breathing as I drizzled fresh water in and around his mouth. More than once I thought he was gone. Fortunately, he had a name tag. It read “Lucky” and had a phone number listed. I immediately turned the bow toward home and grabbed my phone. “I found your dog…I found your dog!” I shouted.
Apparently, sometime the day before, Lucky went missing from a waterfront community more than ten miles away. He must have fallen into a canal and gotten swept out to sea with the tide. Lucky was in the water overnight, doing the doggy paddle for over 24 hours!
His owners were so grateful that they broke down in tears at the ramp as they rushed him to the local animal hospital. A few weeks later I received a “Thank You” call. Miraculously, Lucky made a full recovery and from what the owners tell me he won’t go anywhere near the water.