The miniature pinscher is also a pro at skateboarding, snowboarding, and more.

When Sophia Sadlowski first put her red miniature pinscher, Rusty, on a surfboard at the beach six years ago, she only expected to get a few cute photos of the puppy enjoying himself in the water. Yet every time they returned to the sand, he kept jumping back on the board, eager to get back out. So, Sadlowski helped her dog back onto the board and pushed him into a few waves—and was thrilled to discover that Rusty had become a surfing pro entirely on his own.

"I didn't have to train him at all—I just put him on the surfboard and he did the rest," the California-based Sadlowski recalls.

Soon after, she entered him in a San Diego contest for surfing dogs, where the 4-month-old pup took third place. Over the next several years, Rusty continued to pick up numerous trophies and medals, taking on bigger and better waves while Sadlowski proudly cheered him on.

"He gets so much joy out of it, and it makes me happy to see him that happy," she says now. Although Rusty's aptitude in the water initially came as a surprise, the now-6-year-old pup has always been "determined" when it comes to trying new things and "loves life," Sadlowski says. "He doesn't really show any fear," she adds—and not just with surfing. Rusty has also picked up skateboarding, snowboarding, sledding, and more sports, tackling each new activity with the same clear enthusiasm.

But it's surfing that the dog seems to enjoy most. Whenever Sadlowski gets her beach clothes out, Rusty "starts going insane," she says, running around in circles and barking loudly in excitement. His owner is just as glad; because of Rusty, Sadlowski has also taken up surfing, hopping on the board alongside her pup. "He made me feel safe," she remembers of those first outings, noting that Rusty would stay on the nose of the board and look back at her to check that she was okay.

That protective attitude is part of why Sadlowski and her dog have such a close bond, she says. When she adopted him, her previous dog had just died, and her mother was gravely ill. The day Sadlowski went to the shelter and saw the tiny, "bright red" Rusty frolicking in the grass, she went to the hospital to tell her mom, who expressed her happiness that her daughter had found a new friend to love. That same night, her mother passed away.

"Rusty is my last connection to my mother," says Sadlowski, tearing up. "At the same time I was so sad, I could still be happy to see this beautiful puppy."

Because of Rusty, Sadlowski was able to "go outside and start doing fun things" again after her mother's death, she says. Years later, the dog's loving nature and free spirit still help her cope with stress and hardship. Watching him surf or skateboard, Sadlowski says, "puts a smile on my face and it puts a warm feeling in my heart."

The pup has changed her life in more ways than she can count. "Physically and mentally, I'm a healthier person than I would've been without Rusty," she says. "He has been a blessing for me and for my whole family."

You can follow Sadlowski and Rusty's adventures on Instagram, at @rustythesurfingminpin.