A dolphin tour boat captain is being hailed a hero after she rescued a dog in distress in the waters near St. Pete Beach on July 11.

  • "Sam" believed to have fallen over seawall into the water
  • Susi Herrington swam over to Sam and helped him swim to a low dock
  • Dog's owner lived nearby

Susi Herrington is a sailboat captain at Dolphin Landings Charter Boat Company. She said they normally take out groups of people for tours to look for dolphins.

“We go out, look for dolphins, but we actually let the dolphins come up to the boat -- we don’t go chasing them or anything because they’re in their natural habitat,” Herrington said.

But on this particular day, with another captain and customers on board, they spotted something that wasn’t a dolphin swimming in the intercoastal waterway on St. Pete Beach.

“Yesterday we actually saw some dolphins and we were busy watching the dolphins, and all of a sudden captain Scott said, 'Susi, do you see what I see?' And I looked and I said, 'I see a dog.' And he says, 'yep and that dog is in distress,'“ she said

That’s when Herrington said her training kicked in.

“I lowered myself down and went into the water, swam over to the dog, got a hold of him by his collar, put my arm under his head and lifted his head out of the water and swam with him to a dock, a low dock,” said Herrington.

She said she still can’t believe she was able to pull the large dog to safety.

“Somehow I pulled myself up to the dock, and I pulled the dog onto the dock. I don’t know how I did it," Herrington said. "When I pulled him up, his body just flopped out. All his legs were out underneath him. He eventually got up, shook, and I thought, 'Well, he’s got to live around here somewhere."

The dog, a 12-year-old black lab named Sam, lead Herrington to his owner’s home, right next door.

“I knocked on the door, and that’s when I asked the lady, 'Is this your dog?' and she was just in tears -- literally tears,” Herrington said.

Sam’s owner, Mary Doherty, said she was on the phone and had walked away from the back yard when she lost sight of Sam. She said Sam always hangs out behind their home near the water, but never jumps in.

“I couldn’t believe it, because our dog, he won’t even leave the yard," Doherty said. "He comes into our pool by the beach. He will not jump into the pool, he’s never jumped into the water, so this was pretty shocking for me, and needless to say I was pretty upset about it, crying."

Doherty said Sam has cataracts, and she believes he fell over into the water over the seawall.

She added that she thought about what could’ve happened, but is grateful it didn’t happen, thanks to a dolphin boat tour.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m forever indebted to them," said Doherty. "I cannot believe that they did that."

Doherty said they went to visit Herrington to thank her. She said they’ll keep a much closer eye on Sam from now on.

For her part, Herrington said she’s no hero, and was just doing what any animal lover would do.

“I was just doing my job," Herrington said. "Just doing what I’ve been trained to do all these years of working on boats."