Dog home after 4 months on island

April 8, 2009 6:10:48 AM PDT
A pet dog swept off a sailboat in choppy seas off Australia was found alive four months later on a remote island - and returned to her family, who'd thought she was dead.

The 4-year-old blue heeler, named Sophie Tucker, was captured by rangers last week on St. Bees Island in northern Queensland state, nearly 6 miles (10 kilometers) from where she was washed off the sailboat in November, owner Jan Griffith said.

Rangers initially thought they'd captured a wild dog, but friends who heard about the canine contacted Griffith and suggested it might be Sophie.

Griffith and her husband met the rangers' boat as it arrived back on the mainland last Tuesday and were shocked to find their long-lost pet on board.

"We called the dog and she started whimpering and banging the cage and they let her out and she just about flattened us," Griffith said Monday. "She wriggled around like a mad thing."

The dog had been spotted by several people on both St. Bees and nearby Keswick Island, leading Griffith to believe she swam back and forth between the two, which are separated by a narrow channel.

Queensland wildlife official Steve Fisher told Monday's Daily Mercury newspaper that three rangers trapped Sophie in a cage, using dog food as bait.

"The day Sophie was trapped she was nervous because she'd been separated from human contact," Fisher said. "But after a while she settled down."

Sophie appeared to have survived by eating goats, as rangers found several baby goat carcasses around the island, Griffith said. This week, the plucky pup was back to her usual diet of ground meat and dog biscuits.

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