Rusty, a 2-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier, is lucky to be alive after a wave dragged him out to sea, while his distressed family watched helplessly from shore.
Rusty and his family were enjoying a day at the beach when events took a dangerous turn. Rusty was running into the surf at Patiti Point in New Zealand when he was knocked over by a wave and dragged out to sea by the undertow.
"Once he went under the big wave, I knew he was in trouble," said his guardian Melissa Fleming. She and her two young sons could do nothing from the beach as Rusty was pulled further and further away.
Melissa immediately called her partner, James Carroll, who rushed over to the beach from his workplace close by. At first, he tried to swim after Rusty, who by this time was about 165 feet (50 metres) out. James got out to his chest in the freezing water before the powerful current forced him back to shore. James then tried to organize a boat to help rescue their dog, who was now hard to spot. "You couldn't even see him," James said. "He was a black dot."
That's when a passerby suggested they ask for help from some surfers who were only a short distance out in the water. The man called out to 22-year-old Linden Baker and his friend, Richard Hinks, asking for their help.
Linden and Richard agreed and paddled out to Rusty. It took them 10 minutes to get to the panicking dog. They were nearly 1.5 miles (2 km) out from shore.
When they reached Rusty, he was reluctant to go with his rescuers. "Once we got out there I thought we'd chuck him on to the surfboard," Linden said. "But I went to go near him and [he] just barked at me."
Instead, each got on one side of the dog and then directed the disoriented dog back to shore.
"It took about 20-odd minutes to get back once we got out to [him]," Linden said.
The family was extremely relieved when Rusty arrived back on dry land.
Melissa offered Linden and Richard a thank-you gift, but they declined. James was also grateful for the help they got from bystanders "who stood by us on the beach and made phone calls to try to help, and the lady who brought Rusty a blanket".
Rusty was taken directly to a vet and despite his frightening 50 minutes in the sea, was no worse to wear, although he was tired out from the long swim.