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SnakebyteXX
07-31-2005, 07:14 AM
Ruff crossing: Alcatraz swim a canine first
Dog places 72nd, ahead of hundreds in annual race
Julian Guthrie, Chronicle Staff Writer

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Early Saturday morning, a golden retriever named Jake made history when he jumped from a boat near Alcatraz into the choppy bay and swam 1.2 miles to the San Francisco shoreline.

He was the only dog among more than 500 swimmers who took part in the South End Rowing Club's 10th annual Alcatraz Invitational. Dog-paddling his way toward the front of the pack, Jake came in 72nd overall, leaving some serious swimmers seriously chagrined. His time was 41 minutes and 45 seconds.

Reaching the shoreline next to the Hyde Street Pier to chants of "Jake! Jake! Jake!" the 4-year-old canine appeared to take his celebrity in stride. He trotted onto terra firma, evaded a lady trying to put a medal around his neck, and let out a full-body, water-flying shake. He proceeded to roll in the sand and make a quick detour to the nearest grassy area.

His tail was wagging. The swim was behind him. A tennis ball was in front of him.

Jake made the swim in the frigid waters with his human dad, Jeff Pokonosky. The two live in San Diego and swim 2 miles twice a week. They also bodysurf together, and Jake is known for doing sprints every day -- generally after tennis balls. Before a big swim, Jake eats scrambled eggs. He stands 2-foot-1 and weighs 65 pounds. He has a weakness for carbohydrates, particularly bread.

"It was colder and rougher than we thought it would be," Pokonosky said after the race. "Jake amazed me. He was very focused. He started out really fast. I was trying to slow him down. He increased his pace to stay with the pack."

Entering Jake in the invitational was motivated by fun -- and business. Pokonosky runs a company called WiggleWireless that delivers text messages and news to cell phones. Subscribers to the service were able to receive live updates on Jake's progress. A portion of the money raised went to Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Updates from Jake -- a kind of dog blog -- ranged from, "I checked into the Hyatt and took a drink from the toilet bowl," to "I'm standing in line for the Alcatraz swim. I don't see any other dogs." Several messages were sent mid-race. One read, "The water is ruff. I mean ruff-ruff."

Bill Wygant, president of the South End Rowing Club, which was established in 1873 and draws a hearty group that prides itself on swimming without wetsuits, said he was happy to allow a dog into the race. It was a first, he said, but he hopes not the last.

"This swim is about personal challenge," Wygant said. "Whether you are dog or human, it's whatever you can achieve that counts."

Lynne Cox, an open-water swimmer who has broken men's and women's records for swimming the English Channel and was the first person to swim between Alaska and the Soviet Union, was on hand to support the event. She said when she met Pokonosky, she asked whether swimming in the race was something Jake truly wanted to do.

"He said Jake would be upset if he saw him swimming and he couldn't swim," Cox said. "I have a yellow Lab at home. Maybe next year the club will have a dog category."

By midmorning, as swimmers continued to stream onto the beach in front of the rowing club, Jake began to unwind. He rolled onto his back, welcoming any and all congratulatory belly rubs.


web page (http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/07/31/DOG.TMP)

PQQLK9
07-31-2005, 11:37 AM
heartwarming /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif