When Kristin Vonclein took her puppy, Skip Jack, to a private beach near the Rappahannock River in Virginia, she probably didn’t expect that he would spend the next two hours swimming by himself.
This wasn’t Skip Jack’s first time at the beach, but on this particular trip in early August, the pup set out and didn’t come back.
Maybe it was because the puppy, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, couldn’t help but swim toward its namesake bay. Perhaps he misjudged his swimming ability. Whatever the reason, he soon swam beyond help and was whisked away by a strong current.
Vonclein and a friend swam out after him, but they soon realized they were no match for the water. They swam back to the beach, grabbed a flotation device, and swam back out — but Skip Jack was gone.
They called 911, and Marine Patrol Officers Kyle Jones and Terrie McKellips, who were nearby, went out in their boat to search for the missing pup.
“There was a little chop,” McKellips told Chesapeake Bay Magazine of the water conditions. “And the area was filled with crab pot buoys, so it was a challenge to look for a small brown dog’s head.
“Also, the dog had been in the water for close to two hours, so it would be exhausted if still alive. We started a grid search.
“Then, right off the bow, I saw a brown nose. It was the puppy! The dog was so tired it was barely holding its nose above the water. The rest of the dog was submerged. I don’t know how we were able to see it.”
The officers retrieved the retriever, and he immediately collapsed once he was onboard. They had found him just in time; the dog was exhausted from his nearly two-hour swim.
Thankfully, other than being sore and tired, Skip Jack was fine. But McKellips had something more she was thinking about.
She invited Vonclein and Skip Jack to the office, where the two were presented with a doggie life vest signed by all the staff.
“It was simply wonderful, and everyone was touched,” McKellips told Chesapeake Bay Magazine. “Vonclein was so thankful, and the dog was full of energy, as a puppy should be.”
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission posted about the rescue, sharing photos of Skip Jack on the rescue boat and outfitted in his fashionable new gift.
“Last week saw another successful water rescue from the Virginia Marine Police,” the Aug. 9 post reads. “Skip Jack, a Chesapeake Bay retriever, was found in the Bay a mile from shore, struggling to stay afloat.
“MPO McKellips recovered him and returned him to his owner with a new canine personal floatation device. Remember to have a PFD for all your boat passengers- even the four-legged ones!”
No doubt Skip Jack will spend more time in the water, but hopefully he’ll be much better-prepared thanks to the officers.
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