Before you continue reading, go grab yourself a cup of coffee, hot chocolate, or tea before you read. This true story is full of drama, mystery, and suspense, then tightly wrapped around danger, sorrow, and hope.
On the morning of the January 11th, 2020, a health conscience athletic man and his faithful dog prepared for a cliff trail run, en route from Sunset Bay to Simpson Reef. The two started out at the crack of dawn on their routine exercise, a route the two had done hundreds of times before.
As the man and his dog set out on the cliff trail, photographers Chris Cline and I, (Steven Michael), entered Shore Acres State Park prior to sunrise with the hope of capturing a Blue Hour Shore Acres Wave lit up by the moon.
When it comes to the human soul and nature, I constantly express the following words, “Nature will take what it wants, how it want, and when it wants.” And, “No place in nature is considered safe.” These two phrases have been ingrained into my everyday way of life on the coast as a reminder to always be aware of my surroundings.
The photo idea Chris and I had planned did not pan out due to a swift northwest wind coming right at us, and it became impossible to keep the camera lens dry. It was decided to go check out the south cove below the gardens, known as Simpson Beach Cove, to see just how much the King Tide and Northwest High Surf were affecting the vulnerable cove.
Roughly about the same time, the man and his dog running the Coast Trail entered the park from the north.
In the blink of an eye, the man and his dog came face to face with a wall of water and foam, and within seconds, the two of them disappeared from the inundation.
Shortly after he popped up out of the foam again and stumbled back to the dry land, but this time he was without the "tripod." Chris and I knew we had to help in any way that we could, without putting our own lives in danger. We ran down the trail to the cove.
“Don’t try to cross!” We yelled at him.
“Don’t cross!” We yelled again.
He yelled back, “I’m not trying to cross!”
He stood in the foam quietly trying to hold back an emotion of fear that was taking over him. We could tell he was freezing as he was literally covered head to toe in the foam.
Words become more of a reality when they are verbally spoken aloud. His voice sounded desperate when he spoke saying, “my dog is in this.”
“What is your dog’s name?” Chris asked loudly.
While reentering the foam he yelled back, “Cindy!”
Chris and I started yelling for “Cindy”. We didn’t know what else we could safely do.
By now, the migration of storm-watching-people driving into the park of Shore Acres created a grid-lock traffic jam. The park was experiencing an influx of cars and people unlike they’ve ever experienced before, even more people than the opening night of the Holiday Lights. Every single one of them had no idea what was taking place down in the cove.
“What is your name?” We asked the man loudly.
At this point Chris and I felt we needed to know this man's name just in case the situation became peril. We really didn’t know what desperate risks he might take in order to find his dog.
“Brian.” He answered before disappearing back into the foam.
With each incoming wave, more and more layers of foam were added, and the scene deteriorated quickly. Chris and I decided in the best interest of the man and dog in distress, we needed to inform park officials of the life-threatening situation. Chris stayed on the trail to keep track of Brian’s where-a-bouts while I ran back to the main parking lot in hopes of finding a park ranger.
I walked away.
Meanwhile, Chris was still down in the cove warning Brian each time the next large wave was near and about to inundate him. The ocean was relentless. The natural shape of the cove funneled everything right into the back of the cove, and right where Brian was despairingly searching for his dog. Each incoming wave of turbulent water had a three to four foot layer of sea foam riding on top. Any dangers riding within the wave, like a large log, couldn’t be seen. Brian was unknowingly putting his life in jeopardy with each incoming wave.
I found a park ranger in the booth at the campground. After telling the ranger of the situation happening in the cove below Shore Acres, she questioned, “Do you mean Norton Gulch?”
“No,” I answered. “He’s down in Simpson Beach Cove at Shore Acres!”
“Oh, so he’s not in Shore Acres but at Simpson Reef?” She questioned again.
“No!” I answered with frustration. “He’s in the cove below the gardens in Shore Acres, It’s called Simpson Beach Cove!”
How can this park ranger have no concept of knowing specific named locales within the park of which she works for? It angered me. I felt like I needed to find a different park ranger, so I drove to the park headquarters a few more miles down the road. However, with it being the weekend, the main office was closed. At that, I knew we were on our own.
Brian looked defeated. From head to toe, he was covered in the sea foam and grit. He was physically shaken from the cold and fear. It was hard to know exactly how to provide any hope to a situation that looked very bleak for Cindy.
“Are you one hundred percent sure she did not come out of the foam?” I asked Brian hesitantly.
Brian shook his head and put his hand up on his forehead saying, “she didn’t come out.”
The three of us kept looking and calling out the dog’s name for another fifteen minutes. There was no response from Cindy. Brian made the gut-wrenching decision to call the search off. I looked across the cove at Chris and shook my head “no.” Brian was displaying signs of emotional shock and signs of going into shock from the cold.
By now, it was more important to make sure Brian got safely out of the cove. I motioned to Chris that we were heading out. I yelled across the cove that I was going to drive Brian back to his car.
Chris gathered up both his and my camera equipment and headed back up into the main park. I walked quietly with Brian up the south trail and allowed him to talk out what was going through his mind. His voice quivered. “How am I going to break this to my family?” Emotionally, he was stressed. However, my main concern was how he was acting physically. It was important to watch for signs of hypothermia. Though in mental shock, Brian was physically okay.
Honestly, I wouldn’t know what I would say to my own family if I had lost my dog Toby in this way. I tried to provide comfort without sounding hopeful of the situation by saying, “I do not want to give you a false hope, but maybe Cindy got out and bolted without you knowing?”
I shared a story of a former dog I owned named Lucy that got spooked and bolted away from me and ran two miles back to my car. I told him I thought I lost her. But, when I got back to the car, I found her hiding underneath the vehicle. Brian sat quietly in my vehicle, shaking from the cold. We arrived at Sunset Bay, where he had parked to start his run. We exchanged phone numbers.
I told him, “If by chance Cindy bolted without him knowing and she is somewhere on the trail, we will find her.”
I also told him that I was going to be in the park all day, and if her body is spotted in the cove, we will do our best to retrieve her for him and give him a call. I hugged him, said how sorry I was, and I got back in my car. I waited for Brian to get settled in his car. He started the vehicle and sat there. I watch quietly. Brian then got out of his car and looked underneath the vehicle. My heart broke.
Chris made it back up into the main park with both of our camera equipment and headed to the observation booth. It was then that he noticed my camera was not attached to the end of my tripod. He panicked thinking he left my camera down in the cove. He dropped everything and ran back down the trail to get the camera. Only thing is, I had the camera, and Chris did not know this.
At that moment, a waterlogged black dog popped up out of the foam.
“There she is!” They yelled.
Cindy was alive!
Somehow Cindy managed to survive being submerged in six to eight feet of salty, gritty, wet foam for a good two hours. She managed to find something to stand on, lifting her body up out of the foam. She looked disoriented, exhausted, and on the brink of death.
Chris and a ranger tried to get her attention yelling, “Cindy! Cindy!”
A large wave rushed in, knocking the dog off her perch, and she disappeared once again.
Another ten minutes passed without a sign of life from the exhausted black dog. Just as quickly as she disappeared, Cindy resurfaced, but in a different location.
“Cindy! Cindy!” Chris and the ranger called out.
This time Cindy heard them and looked their way. With all her remaining strength, she wagged her tail and leaped towards them but disappeared once again in the thick foam.
Time stood still as Chris and the ranger looked frantically for her. Another large wave of foam crashed in and Chris and the ranger had to retreat up the trail before being inundated.
That last wave was all Cindy needed to fight and find the energy needed to get out of the grit infested death trap. She began leaping towards Chris, much like you’d see a dog leap through tall grass or a corn field. She’d rise up out the foam, then disappear back in to it, rise up, then disappear. Cindy made it out alive and ran directly into Chris’s arms.
Her eyes were irritated and sunken from the salt water and sand. Her body temperature was extremely low, and her fur was waterlogged, but she was alive.
Before saying good-bye to Cindy and Brian, Chris and I got our picture taken with Cindy, "The Miracle Dog".
A father and his two young children were swept off a beach side trail and pulled into the ocean. The father was holding the two children when a wave swept all three into the water at about 12:30 p.m. at the Falcon Cove area, near the small coastal community of Cannon Beach Oregon.
The forty-seven year old father, of Portland and his seven year old daughter were taken by ambulance to a hospital in the nearby city of Seaside, while the Coast Guard deployed helicopters to help search for the boy. The girl was pronounced dead at the hospital. and the search and recovery of the boy was not successful.
The coast of Oregon is very unpredictable. Each year, the news sadly reports of tragic incidents due to the extreme conditions that catch so many off guard, and in the blink of an eye, they're gone.
The story of Brian and his dog, I am able to share, ended in the best way possible considering what could have happened as the alternative. It wasn't that Brian intentionally put himself and his dog in jeopardy that day, and he didn't foolishly play Russian Roulette with the ocean. Accidents happen, and in most cases are caused by people not being aware of the potential dangers around them.
I said this once already in this story, but it won't hurt to say it again,
“Nature will take what it wants, how it wants, and when it wants.” And, “No place in nature is considered safe.”
Brian shared the following with Chris and me...
"Words aren't enough to say thank you for saving 'Cindy' this morning. I don't know how she survived being under the foam that long. I'm embarrassed about leading 'Cindy' into a life threatening situation, but if posting the photos and telling this story might save someone's life from making the same mistake, then please feel free to do so."