Jul 2, 2007

Border Collie helps save Kayakers.....

When Randy and Christine Ronback adopted their Border collie "Smooch" two weeks ago, they thought she could help keep geese off their lawn.

After alerting her new owners to two capsized boaters yesterday, she can probably add "assistant life saver" to her good-dog credentials, too.

The Ronbacks were enjoying their morning eggs and coffee at their Amityville home when Smooch, 2, began barking incessantly. It wasn't like her to make that much noise, so Christine Ronback went to see what the commotion was about.

Outside her lawn overlooking the Amityville River, an empty yellow kayak drifted toward the Great South Bay. Nearby, a man and woman struggled in the water as they tried to catch up to it, Amityville Village police said.

"Two people fell out of a kayak!" she told her husband.

Randy Ronback, 65, jumped in his row boat and headed in their direction, some 300 to 400 yards away, he said. Pamela Coppola, 32, of Manhattan, was holding her own, but Joseph Hess, 32, of Massapequa Park dipped under the water twice and could barely keep his head up, village police said.

"He'd come up and then he'd sink again," Ronback recalled.

Ronback pulled up alongside Hess and extended a crab net in his direction. He latched on, but didn't have the strength to pull himself up, Ronback said.

Ronback grabbed onto Hess and tugged him on board. Then he steered toward Coppola, and brought them back to shore.

"She was comforting him and he was gasping for air and exhausted," Ronback said.

The Amityville Fire Department transported both to New Island Hospital in Bethpage for examination. Hess had ingested some water and both had been exposed to the water's cool temperature -- though not long enough to suffer hypothermia, Sgt. Brian Scott said.

Police hadn't yet determined yesterday afternoon how or why the kayak capsized. The water was slightly rough from the morning breeze, Scott said.

Neither Hess nor Coppola could be reached for comment.

"He is very lucky that guy happened to look out and see him," Scott said of Hess.

Ronback, who works as a marine contractor, said Smooch doesn't seem to have realized her heroic efforts. "She doesn't think she did anything special, I don't think," he said. "But she really did. Maybe she'll get an extra cookie or something."

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

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