Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 14 May 2002 Issue
Terrier rescue affirms humanity
Sunday, April 28, 2002
Global war against mass-murdering fanatics ... ancient blood feuds ignited
anew ... outbreaks of famine, disease, child abuse, drug addiction and moral
decay ... rampant proliferation of cell phones ... relentless infestation of
the Charleston area by tourists and new residents.
Traumatized by these and other modern menaces, it's understandable that
some people detected misplaced priorities in expensive efforts to rescue a
dog from an abandoned tanker adrift 600 miles southwest of Honolulu.
Understandable, but mistaken.
The mercy mission to save Forgea, a 2-year-old, 40-pound, white terrier
mix, revealed not misplaced priorities, but this redeeming aspect of human
We - at least most of us - hold dogs in high regard.
And that feeling is mutual.
That's why the Hawaiian Humane Society co-sponsored a failed $48,000
search for that tanker, the Insiko, and that dog, who was left alone aboard
the derelict vessel April 2.
That's why, after a Coast Guard plane spotted the ship last weekend,
fishermen boarded it in a failed attempt to take Forgea (pronounced for-gay,
it means "fortune" in Mandarin Chinese) back to dry land. Unfamiliar with the
men or their language (English), Forgea, sensing danger, eluded her would-be
That's why the Coast Guard, before it could tow that tanker away from
the Johnston Atoll for scuttling to minimize environmental damage, also tried
to save Forgea.
That's why an animal-behavior specialist from Montana was standing by as
a last resort in case the Coast Guard failed, too.
That's why so many folks, including Taiwan's Chung Chin Po, the Insiko's
captain and Forgea's owner, were so gratified when a tugboat crew rescued the
marooned mutt Friday.
Sounds like an extreme endeavor, but hey, wouldn't dogs have done the
same - and maybe much more - for us if they could?
As Robert Louis Stevenson so eloquently put it in "That Character of
Dogs": "Dogs live with man as courtiers round a monarch, steeped in the
flattery of his notice, and enriched with sinecures."
And as King Louis XVI (played by the film's writer-director) so
accurately put it in Mel Brooks' "History of the World, Part I": "It's good
to be king."
OK, so that king's ultimate fate was far from "good."
Remember, though, old Louie's dogs didn't turn on him.
His human rabble did.
The lofty light in which dogs see us is based, initially anyway, on
their awestruck admiration of our "hunting" skills. Check out Fido's
worshipful gaze the next time you come home from the grocery store. Ponder
the logic of the grand old saying "grinning like a butcher's dog."
Yet canine eagerness to please humans isn't solely tied to a consistent
supply of chunky-beef Alpo. As innate team players, they strive to make "the
leader of the pack" - you if you win their allegiance - happy at virtually
And many of them are bona fide heroes. Some of those four-legged
paragons of loyalty and virtue live in our midst at the Charleston Air Force
Base's "Puppy Palace." These intrepid terrorism fighters fly around the world
on secret national-security missions when not on routine patrol here at home.
One of them, Bingki, a Belgian Malinois, was at the No. 7 building next to
the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11 - and lived through the ordeal.
Good-guy dogs don't just sniff for bombs and illegal drugs. They sniff
for survivors - and the deceased. The stirring images of dogs risking their
lives among the Twin Towers rubble provided indisputable evidence of their
devotion to our cause.
So does dogs' willingness to battle other animals - including armed
humans - to help their two-legged friends. Example: Last summer near Fort
Myers, Fla., a 35-pound Australian Blue Heeler went jaw to jaw with an
alligator to save an 85-year-old woman.
But dogs don't have to engage in loser-leaves-town matches with gators
to prove their worth. They have a knack for sharing - and alleviating - human
sorrow. They can "feel our pain," to borrow from a former president who felt
the pain of his dog Buddy's death (hit by a car) last year - and now feels
the joy of a new dog.
Your dog not only knows when you're down. He knows how to boost your
spirits. That benefits folks who are ailing - physically or emotionally.
Something special about petting a dog soothes body and soul. Volunteer dogs
serving that noble purpose are becoming common sights in hospitals.
You don't have to be hospitalized to experience such blissful balm.
You don't even have to be a dog to be rescued at sea.
Then again, would we send the Coast Guard - or an animal-behavior expert
- 600 miles from Honolulu to save a cat?
Frank Wooten is associate editor of The Post and Courier. His e-mail address
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