Peter Glazer glanced at the waves pounding Blind Beach near Jenner on Thursday and thought better of letting his Labradoodle off leash to frolic in the water.
It probably was a wise decision. Since 2008, at least seven people have drowned off Northern California's coast after a split-second decision was made to attempt to rescue a pet swept away by the unforgiving sea.
The sad irony is that in most cases, dogs survive ordeals that end up claiming the lives of their masters. Of the seven deaths on the North Coast, only one dog, a pug, did not survive the incident.
The latest tragedy unfolded Tuesday — New Year's Day — when 59-year-old Charlie Quaid of Richmond drowned at Point Reyes National Seashore after Quaid's wife and the couple's pit bull were swept up<NO1><NO> in the waves.
Such tragedies beg the question: is attempting to save a dog's life ever worth risking your own?
Even those who say it is not probably haven't faced that heart-stopping moment when a beloved pet is suddenly in harm's way, requiring its owner to act or watch helplessly.
Glazer, who was visiting Blind Beach from Oakland, said he understands why someone would act to save a pet in distress.
"It's really hard to watch a dog in danger," he said.
The Northern California coast poses many dangers for dogs and their owners. Even at beaches where the surf appears calm, hidden riptides or steep underwater drop-offs represent a risk to anyone who ventures into the icy-cold water without proper attire and advanced swimming skills.
By law, dogs are not allowed off leash at any beach on the Sonoma County coast and in several places dogs are banned outright to protect sensitive wildlife or vegetation.
The law is widely flouted, however, said Jeremy Stinson, a supervising ranger with the state Parks Department.
"It's one of the most common contacts we make on the coast," Stinson said.
Stinson advises people to never go into the surf to attempt a water rescue, whether it's to save a dog or another person. But as the owner of a husky-shepherd mix named Rocky, Stinson acknowledged how difficult it can be to follow that advice.
"That's really easy for me to say from the safety of my office, but it is just so common to have tragedies unfold from a rescue attempt," he said.
Two women have died off Portuguese Beach in Sonoma County since 2008 after they attempted to rescue their dogs. A third woman drowned that year after she went after her dog off Gualala Beach.
On Nov. 24<NO1><NO>, three members of a Eureka family drowned at Big Lagoon in Humboldt County after <NO1><NO>one of them tried to save the family dog<NO1><NO> from drowning.
Accounts of the events that led up to Quaid's death Tuesday at North Beach in Marin County differ.
Quaid was the chief financial officer of a San Francisco health care consulting firm and also an avid sailor.
His wife, Lisa, said in a brief interview Friday that she was walking on the beach with Clive, the pit bull they adopted from a rescue agency, when the pair were swept up by a "sneaker wave."
"After that I can't tell you what happened," she said.