The 8-month-old cocker spaniel spent three months adrift at sea with his owners Jerry and Darla Merrow and their parrot Gulliver on a 48-foot motor sailor, the Darla Jean, which developed mast problems after setting out from California. The boat eventually ran aground on Fanning Island, part of the Republic of Kiribati, a populated but small atoll about 1,000 miles south of Hawaii. While the Merrows were able to hitch a ride back to the United States on a cargo ship, the vessel wouldn't allow the pets onboard -- so they were left behind.
Nevada resident Josh Joslin read about the orphaned pooch in boating journal Latitude 38; a couple visiting the island tipped off the publication that local officials were being pressured to euthanize (it's illegal to import animals into Kiribati). Having just put one of his two dogs to sleep, Joslin sprung to action to save and adopt Snickers. After several phone calls to the Hawaiian Humane Society and NCL, arrangements were underway for Snickers to be transferred from Fanning Island to Honolulu aboard Pride of Aloha.
Transporting a dog into the U.S. is no small feat (when's the last time you got through Customs without breaking a sweat?), and the paperwork and legwork was completed just in the nick of time. April 9 was NCL's last stop at Fanning Island for the immediate future, and Snickers may have been euthanized had Pride of Aloha not been able to bring the dog onboard during that scheduled port call. Because of its proximity to Hawaii, foreign-flagged vessels sometimes include Fanning Island on Honolulu-based itineraries as they are required to call on at least one non-U.S. port. However, no other lines have stops scheduled there in the upcoming months.
"While Fanning Island is desperately poor, it was the extraordinary kindness and generosity of the inhabitants there that allowed Snickers and Gulliver the time necessary to find a way back to the U.S.," Joslin tells us. "The authorities there would have had every right to seize, and kill, them, because importation of animals into Kiribati is forbidden. That they allowed the animals to live while awaiting the return of the previous owners was an act of kindness that, I'm fairly certain, would not have happened just about anywhere else. And even when they learned the previous owners were not returning to get their animals, they hesitated to actually carry out the order to kill them, and I'm grateful for their having acted in the animals' best interest.
"I would have done whatever I could to help these animals in any event, but the fact that I had just had to have a vet euthanize my 15-year-old Border Collie on March 19 was not irrelevant ... Missy, my other little foundling, seems a bit lost without him. There's a big void in my 'pack' (which includes Henry, a Double Yellowhead Amazon parrot) with Tucker no longer here. I think Snickers will go a long way to 'normalizing' life in my household once he arrives."
So what about Gulliver? There are even stricter rules about bringing pet birds into the U.S. because of communicable diseases, and a quarantine period at a U.S. Department of Agriculture facility is a must. The plan right now is to transport Gulliver to Christmas Island, near Fanning Island, and eventually to Los Angeles, one of two U.S. ports that accept exotic birds. "Many kind and generous people are now working on Gulliver's behalf," Joslin tells us, "and none of us will rest until his future is secured. It appears to be doable now, and he will most likely gain sanctuary at The Oasis, in Arizona."
In the meantime, Snickers is also waiting out his own quarantine period in Honolulu, after which he'll be transported to Las Vegas to meet his new owner (according to media reports, Hawaiian Airlines has volunteered to fly him, at least to Los Angeles, for free). Though Snickers did not partake in any of the Freestyle Dining options while cruising, the Humane Society did hook him up with a "rescue kit" complete with flea medication, a leash and collar, and dog food -- and crewmembers were sad to see him go.
"Please know how very grateful I am to NCL for going above and beyond the call to aid in Snickers' rescue," Joslin says. "It would have been much more difficult without that help -- maybe even impossible."
--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor, with additional reporting by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor
Image of Snickers with Assistant Systems Manager Mark Bult, Captain Evans Hoyt and Captain's Secretary Julianna Koster appears courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line.