49: Dynamic Duo

49: Dynamic Duo

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

Dynamic Duo

Fun fact: In 1876, the Great Dane was named the national breed of Germany, where it was developed in the 16th century.

Courage comes in all shapes and sizes. I’d always known that, but I’d never thought of my skinny, sleepy dog or my lovely, unpretentious, multi-talented wife in terms of life-saving bravery. So I was amazed at the story this stranger was recounting.

“Is that your dog?” the gray-haired, middle-aged lady asked, as I answered her knock on my screen door. Komomai (“come here” in Hawaiian), our shiny-black, floppy-eared Great Dane, lay reclining in the sun. He lifted a lazy head, managed a sniff, and returned to sleep mode.

“I wanted to come by your house and thank you because that dog and the lady with him saved my life yesterday. I was snorkeling at Mahaulepu Beach, and without them I would have drowned.”

The azure waters that look so appealing along the secluded beach have strong currents. On Kauai, we know that swimmers can be carried beyond the reef and out to sea before they know it.

“I asked around at the Big Save in town, ‘Anybody know who has a giant black dog?’ and everybody knew the dog and where you live,” my visitor said.

We were a common sight while driving around our country town with Komomai riding shotgun, head sticking out above the top of my little Datsun.

As she continued, I remembered my wife Sandy saying something about swimming with the dog and helping a lady while at the beach.

“I’m a missionary to Japan back home on furlough. I had forgotten how strong the current is at the beach and I’m out of shape. I should have known better, but I was snorkeling by myself, got tired, and realized I was too far out. I tried to swim back and got a cramp. I started floating on my back, calling and waving for help and praying. I thought I was going to drown.

“Then I heard a holler: ‘Just grab his collar, and he’ll pull you in.’ I saw this lady swimming toward me, pushing through the surf, with a giant dog at her side.”

The grateful woman recounted how she grabbed hold of the dog’s collar as he swam with powerful strokes, towing her to shore. After hugs and tears of gratitude, she departed.

“Sandy’s not trained for lifesaving. Great Danes aren’t really known as water dogs,” I puzzled to myself. “How did she get the nerve to pull off a dangerous open-ocean rescue?”

Upon her return from work, I exclaimed to my wife, “Some lady came by today and told me to tell you ‘thank you for saving my life.’ I didn’t realize you are a hero. What happened?”

“It was mostly Komomai,” Sandy explained modestly. “I was at the beach by myself with the dog. I saw this lady snorkeling and heard her calling for help.

“I looked up and down the deserted beach and realized I was the only one who could help. I was scared and couldn’t decide what to do. I can swim, but you know I don’t have any lifesaving training. I know how easy it is for a panicked person to drown or drag down any would-be rescuer.

“In a flash of inspiration, I remembered how we played with the dog in the water as a puppy and how you taught him to tow you in while you floated on your back holding his collar.

“I called Komomai and got him to swim with me out to the lady. I could tell he knew what to do and wanted to go. His eagerness gave me the courage to try the rescue.

“As we pushed through the surge and current to approach the floundering lady, I remember thinking, ‘Lucky I brought Komomai; he’s a better swimmer than I am.’

“When we reached the lady, she was in a panic, so I didn’t want to get close enough for her to grab me. But I knew Komomai could handle it. Treading water just out of her reach, I calmed her down and told her to trust the dog to pull her in. She grabbed the collar and didn’t let go. The rest was easy.”

Sandy looked at the sleeping dog thoughtfully: “I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly courageous person, but with him pulling her, it was easy for me to swim next to her and reassure her all the way to shore. We made a perfect team.”

~David S. Milotta

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