HONOLULU – Snickers is only eight months old.
But the cocker spaniel already has spent three months adrift on a 48-foot boat and survived four months on a tiny Pacific atoll where his owners, Jerry and Darla Merrow of California, left him when they were rescued by a cargo vessel.
Now Snickers is in Honolulu, rescued by cruise ship workers, the Hawaiian Humane Society, an airline, and others who have united to find him a home.
"It's an amazing story of a lot of people working together to save this puppy," said Evans Hoyt, captain of NCL's Pride of Aloha. "He's a very, very lucky dog."
Efforts to find a telephone number to contact the Merrows were unsuccessful.
Gina Baurile, the society's community relations coordinator, said Thursday that the organization took the lead in coordinating the rescue of Snickers after being contacted in the first week of April by Jack Joslin of Las Vegas, a concerned pet lover who wanted to take ownership of the dog.
Joslin said he learned of Snickers' saga in 'Lectronic Latitude, an online Web site of the boating journal Latitude 38.
The report said the Merrows' catamaran developed mast problems after setting out from California. In the first week of December, the vessel finally drifted to Fanning Island, a populated but tiny atoll about 1,000 miles south of Hawaii. It hit a reef and the couple swam 200 yards to shore with Snickers and their macaw named Gulliver.
The pets were left in the care of some islanders, but Baurile said the animals apparently weren't cared for very well, "because they don't have the same concept of what pets are."
Joslin said the bird was being taken of, but the dog was actually "left to fend for itself."
Fanning is one of 33 scattered coral atolls that make up the remote nation of Kiribati. In March, the government of Kiribati, which technically owned the animals, decided to have them destroyed, Joslin said.
Upon learning the news while on Fanning, a sailing couple from Hawaii tipped Latitude 38 with the story, he said.
Joslin said he decided to become involved when he read the account just five days after he had to have his ailing 15-year-old border collie euthanized.
"That was really tough. That was a very hard time," he said.
"I was willing to spend whatever it took, but because so many people got involved willingly, it turned out not to cost me much at all," Joslin said.
NCL offered to pick up Snickers, and Hawaiian Airlines volunteered to fly him for free to Los Angeles, where he will be handed to Joslin.
Paperwork problems prevented Joslin from bringing back Gulliver, too. But an elaborate plan is hatching to move the macaw to Christmas Island and eventually to Los Angeles, one of two U.S. ports that will accept exotic birds.
"We have an amazing network of bird lovers that came in to get involved in this," bird enthusiast Peter Foreman said. "So, by golly, if they can do it for Snickers, they can do it for Gulliver."
If the effort is successful, Joslin expects Gulliver will be given to a bird sanctuary in Arizona.
Snickers got a trim and flea treatment before boarding the cruise ship. Getting the canine cleared for travel involved the Hawaiian Humane Society, state agencies, and the Department of Homeland Security.
The pup was living in luxury for the last week as the first pet on the Pride of Aloha. He was a little uneasy with all the attention but he is a much different dog now than when the cruise ship first came to his rescue, according to crew members.
"[He was] very unsure of himself and a little bit suspicious of people and it was amazing how just in the course of the first 24 hours and day by day he turned right around," Hoyt said.
The cruise may be over but the crew won't soon forget the pooch they pampered.
"There were some people who were very sad to see him go. He's a little heart stealer, that one," Hoyt said.