HERNANDO BEACH (FOX 13) - A little dog that fell into the Gulf of Mexico near Hernando Beach is alive, and it's a miraculous story of survival at sea.
Two couples were celebrating a pair of birthdays Sunday with their annual tradition; boating off the coast of Hernando Beach. They were about five miles offshore when Bruce Knecht spotted something in the water.
"I thought it was a buoy and I said, 'Oh my gosh, there's something moving,'" he recalled.
As the boaters got closer, they realized it was not a buoy.
"You just saw his little nose sticking up out of the water," said Shawn Sahr.
It was a Jack Russell terrier, wearing a tiny animal life vest, floating in the waves.
"It's like a needle in a haystack and the waves were pretty choppy," said Michael Sahr, Shawn's husband.
"If we weren't as close as we were, within five to 10 feet, we wouldn't have seen him," Shawn added.
Michael pulled the dog, which he said swam right over to the boat, out of the water. The Knechts and Sahrs radioed the Coast Guard and were told someone reported the dog overboard nearly three hours earlier.
"[The owner] had to go down into the bilge to check something and when he came back up, the dog was gone," Michael Sahr said.
The boaters took the dog to the closest Coast Guard station and, just as they arrived, so did the dog's owner.
"When the owner came in, he was screaming the dog's name," said Bruce Knecht.
"Which was Jagermeister!" added Bruce's wife, Robin Knecht.
"He had tears. He said, 'I had given up. I had searched as long as I could and we just couldn't see him, and we just thought we lost him,'" said Shawn Sahr. "[The owner] said, 'it's my baby and I'm just so glad.'"
The boaters all agreed the reason the dog was alive was the animal life vest he was wearing.