LOS ANGELES: Watching as a beloved dog is swept out to sea is heart-wrenching. Doing nothing seems unthinkable.
But experts say that is exactly what a dog owner should do: nothing.
"The human-animal bond is no joke. Most pet owners are very attached to their pets," said Dr. Lynn Miller, a veterinarian who runs the animal clinic at Travis Air Force Base, north of San Francisco. "But you're not going to save your dog by risking your own life. It does your dog no favors in the end if he comes back and you're dead. Then what is he going to do?"
Five people have died in attempted dog rescues in Northern California since November, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Pamela Boehland, based in Alameda, Calif. A couple of months ago, Boehland teamed up with the National Park Service and the East Bay SPCA on a campaign to keep people on dry land if their dogs get caught up in the surf.
The average dog is a better swimmer than the average human. Dogs such as Labrador retrievers, German shepherds and pit bull terriers are built like boats, the vet said. Their heads are above water, they have a low center of gravity, they have four legs for propulsion, their lungs have a higher capacity than a human's, their fur keeps them warm in cold water — and many have waterproof undercoats — and some dog breeds have webbed feet.
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