The Marine Board reports accident and fatality statistics on Oregon’s waterways each year, and the US Coast Guard reports statistics nationwide. What often goes unreported are the injuries and accidents with our beloved K9 companions. Suzanne Foong’s story is a cautionary tale she’d like to share in hopes of averting tragedy for other boating families.
This is my boy, Benji! July 27, 2018, would have been his first birthday. He was the most amazing guy, smart, playful and had the most contagious personality! Everyone that met Benji immediately fell madly in love. He had such a great disposition that he was in obedience training and I had plans for him to become an emotional therapy dog- going to hospitals, schools and nursing homes! We went for walks every day, sometimes twice a day because he was so curious and loved going out to experience the world. He loved going to my parent’s house because they live on three acres and he could explore on his own. He enjoyed going to Mudd Bay to pick out his favorite toys and treats. Easy to say, he was the happiest, most loving boy who fell in love with life as everyone fell in love with him.
On July 7, 2018, our family experienced a tragic loss. My kids took him out on the boat on the Columbia River. He loved being out there; the feel of the wind in his face, swimming around the island, running with the kids and playing ball. When my kids were going out in the boat, my daughter was sitting with him at the bow, holding on to him while they were heading out to an island. My son was driving the boat and they were pulling into a beach spot and decided for various reasons that it wasn’t the best place to park the boat. My son slowly turned away from the island going about 10 mph at most, and my daughter let go with one hand to help navigate. The moment she lifted one hand, Benji jumped into the water right off the front of the boat. My daughter screamed to stop the engine, but it was too late. Water was drawn into the prop and Benji never had a chance. She thought about jumping in after him but her instincts said to wait. Thank God she didn’t because I would have suffered the loss of my daughter as well.
We have been so devastated by this tragic accident and the loss of our beloved puppy and could not let his death be meaningless. We want to use this lesson to make a difference in saving the life of another dog or even a child. I will not tell you that you should not allow children and dogs in the front of the boat, that dogs should be tethered, or that they should always wear life jackets; that is for you to decide. Just take note and pay attention to our sorrow and learn from our loss. We do not want any other family to experience this kind of tragic accident again, and we think the more people are aware of how dogs or kids behave in their excitement, the less this will happen. What I have learned from this experience is to be grateful for what you have, take nothing for granted, love deeply and live each day fully because it is a gift!
Here are a couple pictures below of Benji the day of the accident just as they were getting on to the boat. He was so excited and happy to be out there on the water, you can just see it on that sweet face of his!
We know he’s having a ball up there in doggy heaven.
The Oregon State Marine Board recommends closely monitoring animals and children when docking, beaching, or entering boat slips. It’s not uncommon for dogs to jump out of a boat or kids to reach their hands out. It’s up to each boating family to decide how to plan for safety. Many thanks to Suzanne for reaching out to the Marine Board and her courage to bring this issue forward in hopes of raising awareness for other families. Rest in peace, sweet Benji.