Costly Effort to Rescue Dog Gives Some Pause

From Associated Press

An almost comically ineffectual effort to rescue a dog stranded aboard a tanker adrift in the Pacific has people in Hawaii and beyond asking: What is a dog’s life really worth?

The extraordinary operation to save 2-year-old Forgea already has cost $48,000 in private funds, and the Coast Guard is prepared to spend taxpayer dollars on what has become one of the most expensive animal rescues ever.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Cyndi Damo, a dog owner from Huntington Beach visiting Honolulu. “There’s many ways the money could’ve been better spent--there’s still children that go to bed hungry.”


“I think it’s cool,” Honolulu resident Darryl Uekawa said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Forgea, a 40-pound white terrier mix, has been alone on the crippled tanker Insiko 1907 since April 2, when the cruise ship Norwegian Star rescued the captain and 10 crew members. An engine room fire aboard the Indonesian tanker March 13 killed one crew member and knocked out power and communications aboard the ship, which serviced fishing boats with fuel and supplies.

As of Thursday the tanker was more than 600 miles southwest of Honolulu.

It is unclear why Forgea was left behind during the rescue, but the Taiwanese captain--the dog’s owner--said there may have been a language barrier between him and the rescuers from the cruise ship.

A Norwegian Star passenger’s remark about the dog on the local TV news prompted viewer calls to the Hawaiian Humane Society, which began a rescue effort April 5 that was called off two days later when the Insiko could not be found.

A week later, a Japanese fishing boat spotted the tanker, but Forgea’s condition wasn’t known until a Coast Guard plane saw the dog running back and forth across the bridge on Saturday.

But when a fishing vessel arrived the next day to help, Forgea, who has lived on the tanker since she was 8 weeks old, ran from rescuers and hid below deck.

Fishermen spent two days in vain trying to tempt the dog with peanut butter and calling out “come” in Mandarin, the language she was raised hearing.


By Tuesday, the Insiko drifted within U.S. territorial waters around Johnston Island and into the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard, which has authority to treat the 256-foot Insiko and its 60,000 gallons of diesel fuel and lubricating oil as a hazard to the marine life around the atoll.

The Coast Guard has allotted up to $250,000 to avert an environmental disaster--an operation that also will include the rescue of Forgea and an attempt to recover the remains of the dead crew member, said Coast Guard Capt. Gilbert Kanazawa, who is in charge of the operation.

A salvage tug hired by the Coast Guard was sent from Honolulu on Tuesday with Humane Society-approved dog traps and is expected to reach the tanker today. Coast Guard officials said a decision has not been made about what to do with the tanker.

The Hawaiian Humane Society said its rescue effort will be covered by $30,000 from the Humane Society of the United States and donations from animal lovers around the country. But the tab could run higher if the tug’s crew is unable to capture the dog and the Humane Society has to fly someone to the ship.

“It’s not tax dollars. It’s not coming from people that don’t like animals,” said Martha Armstrong of the national Humane Society in Washington. “That’s what we do, that’s what our mission is. Whether it’s one dog or a million.”

The captain told a Taiwan newspaper this week he wants his dog back.

“I wish I could fly to Hawaii right away and tell Forgea that ‘you were the bravest on the ship,’ ” Chung Chen-po told United Daily News. He said he adopted the dog at an Indonesian port and named her for the Mandarin word meaning “fortune.”