On a typical cruise, passengers aboard Susi Herrington’s sailboat get to see plenty of dolphins off the coast of St. Pete Beach in Florida.
“We go out, look for dolphins, but we actually let the dolphins come up to the boat — we don’t go chasing them or anything because they’re in their natural habitat,” Herrington, who works for Dolphin Landings Charter Boat Company, told Bay News 9.
But as they scanned the ocean for dolphins July 11, Herrington and her passengers were shocked to see a senior Black Lab treading the water, obviously in distress.
Herrington lowered herself down into the water and swam to the dog. Holding his head above the water, she swam with him to a dock. She told Bay News 9 she couldn’t believe she was actually able to lift the large, heavy dog out of the water and up to safety.
“I don’t know how I did it,” she said. “When I pulled him up, his body just flopped out. All his legs were out underneath him. He eventually got up, shook, and I thought, ‘Well, he’s got to live around here somewhere.'”
Herrington didn’t have to try to locate the Black Lab’s owner. The dog lead her to his house — next door to the dock.
“I knocked on the door, and that’s when I asked the lady, ‘Is this your dog?’ and she was just in tears — literally tears,” Herrington told Bay News 9.
The lucky dog’s name is Sam. He’s 12 years old and has cataracts that affect his ability to see clearly. His owner, Mary Doherty, was on the phone when Sam apparently fell over a seawall and into the water.
“I couldn’t believe it, because our dog, he won’t even leave the yard,” Doherty told Bay News 9. “He will not jump into the pool. He’s never jumped into the water, so this was pretty shocking for me, and needless to say I was pretty upset about it.” She said she is forever indebted to Herrington for preventing what could easily have been a tragedy.
Like most heroes, Herrington is downplaying her life-saving actions. “I was just doing my job,” she told Bay News 9. “Just doing what I’ve been trained to do all these years of working on boats.”
Photo credit: Barbara L. Hanson