The bite marks from the shark that attacked James White were still visible on his leg three weeks later.
“The first time I told somebody this, they were like, ‘You’re out of your mind, there’s no way that happened.’” he said.
“Then I showed him the pictures, and I’m like, ‘No, it absolutely happened.’”
White, a Rohnert Park resident, was fishing from the shore at Bodega Bay in Sonoma County on July 21.
He left Darby, his one-year-old, 100-pound pitbull, in his car parked only a few yards away because he was so close to the road and didn’t want his beloved pup to get too close to the traffic.
White eventually felt a significant tug on his line. Whatever was at the end of it, he was unable to reel it in.
“It was about 10 minutes,” he said. “The only way I think I was able to get the line back is because it was swimming towards me.”
He didn’t realize what he had snagged until he brought the fish into shallow water, it was a 6-foot, sevengill shark.
The shark twisted, dropped to the ground and sunk its teeth into White’s ankle as he attempted to pull the hook from it.
“Immediately, there was blood everywhere; the first bite punctured an artery,” he said. “The pressure was intense.”
White attempted everything to get the shark to release, but he was unable. He called for assistance to several fishermen a few hundred yards away, but Darby reached him before they could help.
The dog heard White scream and fight, so he managed to open one of the car doors and sprint down the small slope to his owner.
Darby charged the shark and bit at its gills, leading the shark to dig its teeth into White even further.
“And I told him, ‘No back off’ and then [Darby] repositioned and grabbed it by the tail,” said White. “He literally ran up the hill with it and pulled it off my leg.”
After being thrown back into the sea by White, the shark swam off.
Without Darby, White is unsure of how he could have persuaded the shark to release. He claims the dog prevented more injury to his leg, which could have led to a perforated artery instead of just a punctured one.
White expresses his utmost pride in Darby. He claims that because Darby, also known as “House Hippo,” is such a loving and lively dog, he didn’t realize how competent or quick to act he was.
“He’s been a part of the family from day one. Just now, a little more. If it wasn’t for him I would have been a lot worse.”