SAN DIEGO – Fishermen like to tell stories, but Nick Haworth will have a whopper of a tale.
The California man's beloved dog, Luna, has returned more than a month after she fell overboard in the Pacific Ocean and was presumed drowned.
The 1 ½-year-old German shepherd was spotted Tuesday on San Clemente Island, a Navy-owned training base 70 miles off San Diego.
The blue-eyed pup disappeared Feb. 10 as Haworth, a commercial fisherman from San Diego, worked on a boat two miles from the island.
"They were pulling in their (lobster) traps, and one minute Luna was there, and the next minute she was gone," said Sandy DeMunnik, spokeswoman for Naval Base Coronado. "They looked everywhere for her. They couldn't see her. The water was dark, and she's dark."
Haworth notified Navy personnel.
"He insisted that he was 90 percent sure that she made it to shore because she was such a strong swimmer," DeMunnik said.
Haworth searched the waters for about two days and Navy staff searched the island for about a week but found no sign of Luna.
She was presumed lost at sea. Until Tuesday morning, that is, when staff arriving for work at the island's Naval Auxiliary Landing Field spotted something unusual — a dog sitting by the side of the road. Domestic animals aren't allowed on the island for environmental reasons.
It was Luna.
"She was just sitting there wagging her tail," DeMunnik said. The staff called to Luna, and she came right over.
A biologist then examined the dog and found her a little thin but otherwise healthy.
"It looks like she was surviving on rodents and dead fish that had washed up," DeMunnik said.
The biologist called Haworth, who was out of state working in the middle of a lake.
"He was overwhelmed. He was so happy and grateful and thrilled," DeMunnik said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Luna was flown to a Navy base on the mainland and handed over to Haworth's best friend, who will care for the dog until her owner returns Thursday night.
Luna, meanwhile, has a souvenir of the experience. Her dog tag was lost but the Navy gave her a new one, DeMunnik said.
Along with her name, it bears a key lesson in the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) course taught on the island to Navy and Marine personnel. The tag reads: "Keep the Faith."