September 13, 2007 in Nation/World

Surfer rescues canine from lake

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo

Joe Riopelle, left, pulls in Matt Smolenski and a dog he rescued Tuesday off the Grand Haven, Mich., pier. Smolenski rode a wave on his stomach to reach the dog after it was swept into Lake Michigan. Associated Press
(Full-size photo)

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. – A surfer rode a wave on his stomach to rescue a struggling dog that had been swept off a pier and into Lake Michigan by a wave.

Matt Smolenski, 25, said he grabbed the pooch’s collar just as the exhausted, black-and-brown mixed breed stopped dog-paddling Tuesday.

“He put the dog up on his surfboard, and the dog rode the surfboard in to shore,” said Royce Rodgers, an off-duty Muskegon Heights police officer who witnessed the rescue. As the dog crouched on the board, Smolenski held on from the water, fighting large waves and a strong current all the way to shore.

“I’ve watched the dog about a million times,” said Smolenski, of Grand Haven. “He barks at the waves and then jumps back when they wash up on the pier.”

A surfing buddy, Joe Riopelle, 24, also of Grand Haven, helped pull in the duo.

Rodgers, who had started walking his own dog on the pier but turned back around after seeing the size of the waves, said the other dog wasn’t on a leash when the wave swept it over the side. The same wave knocked the animal’s owner off his feet, Rodgers said.

“The dog was trying to swim, but the waves were very large. It was struggling,” Rodgers said. “The owner was screaming for the dog.”

Rodgers said the owner thanked Smolenski and gave him a high five. He then “left so fast, I couldn’t get his name,” he said.


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