Luna, The Miracle Dog
Luna; the name that Nick Haworth chose for his beautiful blue-eyed puppy after 'the moon that guides them at sea.' Little did he know that a year later, that name would become even more meaningful than he could ever have imagined.
At only one year of age, Luna grew quite the pair of sea legs and enjoyed accompanying Nick on his boat. However, during a boat trip in February 2016, something went terribly wrong.
While on the boat about two miles from San Clemente Island, an island off the coast of Southern California, Luna suddenly went missing. Nick said that one minute she was there on the boat, and the next minute she was gone.
He immediately sprung into action and searched the water around the boat, but Luna was nowhere to be found. Although with the weight of a heavy heart, Nick knew she was a strong swimmer and he hung on to the hope that she would make it. He contacted the Naval Base Coronado and continued to search the sea. The Navy also provided assistance and deployed search teams, including flyovers.
According to Melissa Booker, Navy wildlife biologist, the San Clemente Island Range coordination center received the report of the missing dog. They then contacted the environmental program, which among other efforts, works to protect species within certain areas of the island.
"So, we went up in a plane using, actually, a former coastguard search and rescue pilot, and searched on two different trips for Luna, and we didn't find her," shared Booker.
Everyone who was able gave all they had to find Luna, but it just didn't seem to be enough. "To be honest we had pretty much given up hope because San Clemente is a very rough island," she said.
Conner Lamb, a family friend of Nick and Luna, shared his thoughts with the San Diego Union-Tribune. "First, we were heartbroken," he said. After ten days of searching and several failed attempts to find her, Nick and his friends had to face the devastating conclusion; Luna was gone forever. "We kind of started to accept what had happened, or what we had thought happened," recalled Lamb.
On February 20th, Nick posted a heartbreaking Facebook post with pictures of her, along with the statement, "RIP Luna, you will be greatly missed."
But miraculously, that is not how the story ends. On March 15, 2016, five weeks after Luna first went missing, a group of Navy service staff members headed to work on San Clemente Island. Along their way, they made an exciting discovery. They drove by a dog that was sitting on the road, and sure enough, it was Luna.
"On the side of the road was Luna, just sitting there wagging her tail like, 'Hey guys, I'm a little hungry," shared Sandy DeMunnik, Navy Public Affairs officer for Naval Base Coronado.
And Luna is a strong swimmer indeed; the area is windy, and the ocean is choppy. She had to swim two miles through treacherous water to make it from Nick's boat to San Clemente Island.
The island itself is also dangerous due to the environment, and the military training in the area. The Navy uses sections of the island and surrounding waters for readiness training, including ship to shore fire testing. It is also particularly dry with a lot of cacti and not many animals. In fact, domestic animals are not permitted on the island due to the sensitive environmental programs that take place there, including the safeguard of certain species from diseases. Luna literally had to avoid live fire from the military training site, and it is believed that she hunted rodents and drank from small puddles to survive.
"That is the most amazing dog, we send people out there for serious training, and she did it all on her own," said DeMunnik.
A veterinary exam confirmed that although a bit malnourished, she was otherwise in good health. "We examined her, made sure she wasn't too dehydrated." Shared Booker, who helped care for Luna once she was found. "We actually collected blood, so we had a specimen in case there's any concern about diseases."
Nick was in Arizona when he received the call that Luna had been discovered. So he called upon his friends, including Connor Lamb, to pick her up.
"Getting that phone call yesterday was like no feeling I've ever experienced," Lamb said when sharing his thoughts with the media the day he picked up Luna. He was seen raising his hands up in excitement as the commuter plane carrying Luna to him landed. And of course, upon Nick's return home, he and Luna also had quite the heartwarming reunion.
The extraordinary and beautiful blue-eyed canine now wears her very own dog tags from the Navy, which is engraved with the words, "Keep the Faith."
As for future plans, Nick confirmed that Luna would continue joining him on his boat, but from then on, she'd likely be wearing a life-jacket.
Nick followed-up with another Facebook post stating, "Beyond stoked to have Luna back. I always knew she was a warrior."