Please select your home edition
Edition
BandG Triton2 AUS 728x90

The castaway dog who never gave up

by Media Services on 7 Apr 2009
Sophie the sea dog, happy to be home and back eating premium mince, rather than old goat. MIAA
When Jan Griffith’s much-loved dog, Sophie Tucker, was washed overboard in stormy seas as the family were cruising on their yacht off Mackay on the east coast of Australia, she believed that her pet had drowned.

Despite a frantic search there was no sign of the animal and Mrs Griffiths and her husband, Dave, resigned themselves to never seeing their dog again. Their children bought their parents a new pet — a red cattle dog named Ruby — and life slowly got back to normal.

Unknown to her owners, Sophie Tucker, a black and tan cattle dog, was not a quitter. It seems that the determined pet swam five nautical miles through seas inhabited by sharks to an island, where she survived for more than four months by eating wild goats.

The story of the canine Robinson Crusoe came to light after park rangers heard reports that a cattle dog had been sighted on St Bees Island, a nature reserve off northeast Queensland renowned for its koalas.

Faced with starvation, the dog reverted to her wild instincts and began hunting and eating feral goats that roam the largely uninhabited island. Reports from the rangers, who believed Sophie to be a wild dog, suggested that she had lost a lot of weight in her first few weeks as a castaway but soon began to look fit and healthy. The carcasses of baby goats were discovered soon afterwards.

Months later Mrs Griffith heard the reports of a cattle dog loose on the island and contacted the rangers in the hope that Sophie had survived. 'She had become wild and vicious,' Mrs Griffith said. 'She wouldn’t let anyone go near her or touch her.'

Mrs Griffith said some locals believed the dog was regularly swimming back and forth several hundred metres between St Bees and Keswick Island to hunt.

She said that Sophie Tucker, named after an American music hall entertainer, had been on deck with the family as they sailed past the Whitsunday Islands in November when winds began to whip up the waves. Suddenly she had disappeared.

'We hit a rough patch and when we turned around the dog was gone,' Mrs Griffith said. 'We were able to backtrack to look for her, but because it was a grey day we just couldn’t find her and we searched for well over an hour. We thought that once she had hit the water she would have been gone because the wake from the boat was so big.'


Sophie was returned last week when the Griffiths arranged to meet rangers who brought the dog to the mainland. Mrs Griffith said: 'We called the dog and she started whimpering and banging the cage and they let her out and she just about flattened us. She wriggled around like a mad thing.'

Viki Lomax, of RSPCA Australia, in Queensland, said that Sophie was lucky not to have drowned or been eaten by a shark. 'If this had been a Pomeranian, I don’t think it would have been a happy ending,' she said.

Caroline Bower, of the Veterinary Hospital Group, said that certain types of dogs could summon their wild instincts if their survival depended on it.

'Although all dogs share 95 per cent of their genes with the wolf, there are certain dogs with more predatory instincts,' she said. 'A King Charles cavalier would be poles apart from a collie, a cattle dog or a sheep dog. Herding breeds still have a strong instinct to chase. The only reason they don’t catch and kill the animal they’re trained to look after is because they’re carefully trained. When driven by hunger you would expect them to revert.'

Sophie Tucker has readjusted quickly to the comforts of home, Mrs Griffiths said. 'She surprised us all. She was a house dog and look what she’s done. She’s swum over five nautical miles, she’s managed to live off the land all on her own. We wish she could talk, we truly do.'

As for Ruby, the two canines are now the best of friends.

.........................................

Letter from reader:

Castaway Dog Content Here in the Virgin Islands, a boat owner lost a Jack Russel, also eventually buying another JR. The original was then found on an island about 2-3 miles from area where lost. Jack Russels are bred to be 'ratters' so the uninhabited island was probably a little more vermin free too.
W. Bostwick, St. Thomas, USVI
from Walter I. Bostwick

Tourism Whitsundays 2019 WOW FOOTERSYC Sail Paradise 2020 - FooterRolly Tasker Sails 2019 728x90 Footer

Related Articles

The Helix Luff Cord
Top-Down Furling Exclusively For North Sails North Sails and Future Fibres co-engineered the Helix Luff Cord, the latest advancement in Load Sharing Technology.
Posted on 14 Nov
TJV: Goodchild and Delahaye take sweet second
Pip Hare set for IMOCA nail-biting IMOCA finish today Sam Goodchild and Fabien Delahaye, on their 40ft monohull, Leyton, have finished second in the Class40 of the 14th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre after crossing the finish line in the Bay of All Saints in Salvador de Bahia
Posted on 14 Nov
Brest Atlantiques day 10
The race is back on! What a day of twists and turns for "Brest Atlantiques"! Maxi Edmond de Rothschild were the first to pass through the Cagarras Islands today at 12:16, followed by Actual Leader in second.
Posted on 14 Nov
44Cup Palma day 1
No play on the opening day Winds gusting up to 40 knots and a heinous seastate out on the Bay of Palma, kept the 44Cup fleet at the dock on the opening day of the 44Cup Palma.
Posted on 14 Nov
SailGP returns to Cowes for Season 2
Historic speeds were reached in Cowes in 2019 Great Britain SailGP Team will want to impress the home crowd in Cowes and win its first SailGP title, as the team looks to fend off rivals from Australia, China, France, Japan and the USA, plus the possibility of an additional team during Season 2.
Posted on 14 Nov
Crédit Mutuel wins Transat Jacques Vabre Class40s
Ian Lipinsky and Adrien Hardy arrive in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil Ian Lipinsky and Adrien Hardy, on their 40ft monohull, Crédit Mutuel, have won the Class40 of the 14th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre after crossing the finish line in the Bay of All Saints in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil.
Posted on 14 Nov
PredictWind makes significant model enhancements
10 years of development has culminated in the release of the most accurate iteration of two models PredictWind has made significant improvements to their weather models. 10 years of development has culminated in the release of the most accurate iteration of the PWG & PWE forecast models to date.
Posted on 14 Nov
Title still open going into 44Cup's grand finale
Two teams, Chris Bake's Team Aqua and Vladimir Prosikhin's Team Nika, are top contenders Starting tomorrow is the 44Cup Palma, concluding event of the 2019 44Cup where the overall winner will be decided. At present two teams, Chris Bake's Team Aqua and Vladimir Prosikhin's Team Nika, are top contenders.
Posted on 13 Nov
Brest Atlantiques day 9
MACIF approaches Rio tonight for a pitstop Following Maxi Edmond de Rothschild's pitstop on Tuesday, MACIF remains in the lead of "Brest Atlantiques", but tonight will be making a stop themselves in Rio De Janeiro for repairs to their central hull rudder.
Posted on 13 Nov
Transat Jacques Vabre: Merron speeds for cheese
The Anglo-French paid on Campagne de France next home Salvador de Bahia is preparing to welcome the next IMOCA and the only couple on a boat in this race, Britain's Miranda Merron and her French partner on land and sea, Halvard Mabire on Campagne de France at the end of the evening (local time, 23:00 UTC).
Posted on 13 Nov