“Oh my God, I could drown, and my kids are standing here watching and they would be stranded on the island.”
That was the thought running through Patrick Mulligan’s head as he felt his body begin to give out on him, struggling to swim against the powerful current. Roughly 30 yards from the shore, Patrick couldn’t help but to think of the worst case scenario. That is, until Vader – the Mulligan family’s Black Lab – bounded out into the surf and towed him back to dry land.
The day began just like any other Mulligan family outing – Patrick, Vader, and his sons, Ryan (12) and Lucas (9), all climbed aboard their sailboat and set off for a day on the high seas. The kids love to take the boat out to explore the surrounding islands, so that is exactly what they did. At one of the stops along their 3-hour tour, Patrick felt that their boat was listing a tad too far asea, so he swam out to move the boat closer to shore.
“I got caught in the current, so I decided to swim back to the beach, but on my way, I started cramping up.” Terrified and quickly losing the strength to stay afloat, Patrick had all but resigned his fate to the sea. He could see his two sons and his dog back on the shore, watching as he clung to life by the skin of his teeth. Then suddenly, as if snapping out of some fear-induced stupor, Ryan let go of Vader’s leash and instructed the dog to swim out and save his father.
A point should be made that, while Vader is a good dog and a loyal companion, he is in no way a trained service or rescue dog. That said, it is often in times of great adversity that we rise to our highest potential. This is true for dogs as well, evidently.
Vader quickly swam out to Patrick, who at this point wasn’t sure whether the dog was going to end up being his lifesaver or the final nail in his coffin. “My first thought was that if he climbs on top of me and starts playing, I can’t defend myself.”
Those fears were quickly alleviated when, in an amazing display of canine rescue intuition, Vader swam right out in front of Patrick, turned around, and waited for him to grab a hold of his vest before swimming back to shore. “I was blown away by it. It was like Vader did it every day.”
Once they reached shallow water, Patrick let go of the dog, stood in the wake and thanked God that he was safe. Ryan and Lucas then ran out and gave their now safe father a big hug.
Patrick is well aware of how lucky he is that Vader was able to rescue him, and you can bet that there will be no shortage of treats and belly rubs coming Vader’s way. But more so than his serendipitous savior, Patrick is aware that the whole event could have been prevented if he had just worn a lifejacket. “I had lifejackets on board and there’s an offshore harness I wear, but I didn’t have the kind of lifejacket for myself that a kayaker would wear, which is what I needed.”
You can bet that Patrick vests up next time he hits the high seas, and that Vader will be there for backup.