For the fourth book in the Heartwarming Animal Stories 2012 Reading Challenge, Sophia found a book that she thought I’d enjoy reading since she noticed that I had been reading books about animals recently: Sophie: The Incredible True Story of the Castaway Dog.
Author Emma Pearse shares the story of Sophie, an Australian cattle dog, who was enjoying a boat ride with her owners (the Griffiths) when she accidently went overboard while around St. Bees Island. Despite an exhaustive search for her by the Griffiths, she was not found.
For several months following the incident, they assumed she had died – either in the ocean from drowning or from being attacked by predators; or on land from thirst and/or starvation. Concurrently, a few residents on these remote islands spotted Sophie who maintained her distance despite her growing hunger and thirst.
Since the inhabited islands prohibit domestic animals, it was imperative that Sophie be captured. Furthermore, one of the islands is home to many koalas that are not fearful of people or animal threats, and are the subject of research of this potentially-endangered animal. Although luring Sophie to a trap was challenging, it was accomplished.
Through word-of-mouth and some fortunate connections, Sophie was reunited with the Griffiths successfully where she easily re-acclimated herself to living in a safe, air-conditioned home surrounded by toys and her loving owners.
Sophie was a fascinating story about the determination, resourcefulness, and hardiness of a dog. It demonstrated the intense loyalty of Sophie to her owners; and showed the impact that a dog can have on humans.
Although parts of the story dragged on at the beginning, Sophie became more interesting once she was spotted on the islands and people became focused on capturing her.
It was interesting to read that when Sophie went into the water that her “survival instincts compelled her to keep moving – this is the only explanation that vets and dog experts can come up for how she managed to make it as far as she did [some estimates are 10-12 hours].
“For a dog to spend more than thirty minutes or so in a swimming pool or a lake, even a dog with the greatest affinity for water, would be a muscle-cramping feat. Put the dog in the middle of the ocean, swimming five, six, possibly ten or more nautical miles, competing with tides, currents, and the massive influence of the islands and reefs that the ocean bullies its way around – the feat is even more amazing.”
In addition to the main focus of the book, I enjoyed reading more about the koala research that is being on St. Bees. Apparently there were feral goats on St. Bees which had to be culled by the parks and Wildlife Service in 2007 since they were destroying the native flora and fauna. The goats had “all but devoured the seedlings of the blue gum and poplar gum trees, which the St. Bees koalas eat.”
So, when Sophie was spotted, she was potentially serious threat to the koalas – for different reasons – since she had not eaten in months by this time and could easily kill koalas for food; and could potentially bring disease to the healthy koala population on St. Bees.
As a side note, the koalas were not native to St. Bees. In fact, a gentleman named Lionel Berck purchased this island in 1907. He and his family “raised cattle and sheep there, built gorgeous colonial houses and brought koalas over from Proserpine, just south of Mackay – possibly as pets and possibly to save them from the then-popular sport of koala shooting.”
Since 1998, the koalas on St. Bees have been studied by scientists and an ever-changing group of volunteers who come from all over Australia and the world. “The Australian Koala Foundation estimates that there are 80,000 koalas left in the wild, possibly as few as 43,000, and there is research going on…with the hopeful goal of creating a national solution that will save the species.”
Between learning more koalas and reading about Sophie’s amazing journey and survival, I would recommend Sophie: The Incredible True Story of the Castaway Dog.