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Boy, 14, paddles to dog's rescue in Liberty Bay

Kohl Serwold, 14, paddles his dog Kali to safety on Aug. 19 (left). Serwold and Kali at his Scandia home (right). - Courtesy image
Kohl Serwold, 14, paddles his dog Kali to safety on Aug. 19 (left). Serwold and Kali at his Scandia home (right).
— image credit: Courtesy image

POULSBO — Neighbors are giving 14-year-old Kohl Serwold a hero's welcome after he rescued his dog from drowning last week.

Kali, a 3-year-old Golden Retriever who often plays in the waters near the Serwold's Scandia home, swam nearly 400 yards into Liberty Bay chasing two seals last Thursday. Neighbors said the tide was high and the seals were circling the dog, drawing her farther from shore. Several of them called the dog back, but she kept swimming.

Serwold was mowing the lawn when he noticed the canine swimming away.

"It was farther than normal so I started calling her. She would turn around, then she'd keep going," he said.

So Serwold followed a family rule and donned a life jacket before climbing in his family's kayak and paddling after Kali.

"She got more than halfway out by the time I finally got her," he said. "You could tell she was having trouble."

Kali was exhausted when Serwold reached her, and she began to panic, first trying to scramble onto the kayak, then jumping off of it, knocking off Serwold's paddle and nearly capsizing him.

Serwold was finally able to pull her aboard, and he waited until she sat down to safely paddle home.

The seals followed them the entire journey, he said, at times swimming close enough to touch.

Several neighbors cheered on the rescue.

"It was a real act of bravery on his part," said neighbor Jim LaFramboise.

Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife spokesman Craig Bartlett called the incident "highly unusual" and said the seals were likely either goofing around or protecting their pups.

"Seals don't normally interact that way with mammals. They're fish eaters," Bartlett said. "We haven't heard or seen anything like that before."

Seals aren't known to work in packs and usually eat salmon or squid. They are curious and playful, and this is pupping season, Bartlett said.

Kohl's father, Kurt Serwold, a Poulsbo firefighter who wasn't home at the time of the rescue, suspects Kali was similarly curious of the seals.

"I just hope she learned her lesson," he said.

See additional photos of the rescue at The Poulsbo Beat.

- Jennifer Morris

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