As the cliche saying goes, dogs are man’s best friend. For Mike Gafa, who is the owner of dogs, Ruby and Zac, the saying cannot be more true.
Raising the two dogs since they were puppies, Gafa knows everything there is to know about Ruby and Zac, especially that the former loves to swim. As Ruby has steadily developed into a competent swimmer in her 6 years of life, Gafa is never surprised when Ruby decides to jump into a pool or lake to go for a short swim. After all, she always returns whenever she goes on such adventures.
Until one day when she didn’t.
It started off as a usual Sunday, when Ruby jumped into a channel at a beach in Nelson, New Zealand, and began paddling off.
At first Gafa wasn’t concerned, but he quickly realized that something was wrong.
“She’s swum out a long way before but she’s always come back,” Gafa told Nelson Mail. “This time the tide was at its peak going out, and she got out into the tidal rip. I turned to my wife and said to her ‘she’s not coming back, she can’t swim against that.’ The analogy is like sticking a twig in a river and watching it float away. She was moving about that fast.”
In a fit of panic, Gafa rushed down to the beach to look for the small, white border terrier.
Scanning across the sea, Gafa’s feelings of worry were exacerbated when he realized he couldn’t see Ruby.
After searching the water with a kayak hurriedly borrowed from a group of bystanders, Gafa returned to land, where the coast guard had been called.
“I thought I’d seen a dead dog, it was just debris in the water, it happened about three or four times, so I was prepared for a dead body at any point,” Gafa told Nelson Mail. “But then I thought, ‘nah she’s too good a swimmer.'”
As it turns out, Gafa was right.
Around the time that this was happening Ruby was still alive, paddling innocently through the water, but slowly growing tired.
Thankfully, a boat spotted her in the water and brought her to safety.
Awwh. Dog swept out to sea from Nelson beach rescued by pilot boat https://t.co/EudayTsmfe
— Nelson Mail (@NelsonMail) November 20, 2017
As she was nearing exhaustion, a Port Nelson pilot boat that had been reached out to by the coast guard spotted her and quickly brought her onboard.
Ruby was “visibly shaken” when she was returned to Gafa, but unaware of the tragedy that almost occurred. She’d ended up traveling 1.2 miles from where she entered the water over an hour before.
Gafa was so relieved that Ruby was safe.
“I went through 100 different emotions in two hours,” Gafa told Nelson Weekly. “Everybody who says they aren’t part of your family haven’t got a dog for the right reason.”
Ruby was very lucky, and that she owes her rescue to calm currents and gentle weather, David Duncan, the harbor master in Nelson, explained. Without them, this story very likely would have had a different ending. The uniqueness of the situation was not lost on Duncan, however.
“The port is always willing to assist in search and rescue, especially where people are involved, but this was the first time that I know of we’ve done it for an animal,” Duncan told Nelson Mail.
As for Gafa, he’s just happy to be able to bring his dog home.
“We are so grateful and thankful,” Gafa said. “Without the people on the beach and the crew, we would never have got our little Ruby back.”