When Nick Haworth's dog, Luna, fell off his fishing boat a couple miles off the shore of San Clemente Island in the Pacific Ocean, he thought there was a good chance she'd swim for land.
"Nick was pretty certain she would make for shore because she was a very strong swimmer," says Sandy DeMunnik, public affairs officer for the U.S. Navy's Naval Base Coronado, which includes the island. "He asked if he could have permission to come ashore to get her."
San Clemente Island is a weapons training facility where they work with bombs and offshore bombardment, so they had to shut off one of the artillery ranges to look for the 1 1/2-year-old German shepherd/Husky mix. The staff helped Haworth search for her to no avail. He stayed in the area for two more days and couldn't find her.
"After about a week, it was presumed she had never even made it to shore because they hadn't seen a sign of her," says DeMunnik. "They presumed she was lost at sea."
Fast forward five weeks to March 15 when Navy staff arrived on the island for work.
"She was sitting on the side of the road just wagging her tail," says DeMunnik. The staff members knew immediately that this was the dog they had been searched for. They opened their door, whistled and Luna jumped right in the truck.
They immediately called Haworth and let him know the happy news. Luna was examined by the island's wildlife biologist, who said she likely wasn't seen for five weeks because her tan-and-black coloring let her blend in with the island's landscape. Miraculously, except for having lost a little weight, she was OK.
"Amazingly for being lost for five weeks in a very dangerous and treacherous environment, she was fine," says DeMunnik. "During that time, there was bombardment training, weapons training … there was a lot of very loud, very dangerous training going on, and we had some very severe El Nino storms."
Those storms probably helped keep the dog alive because fresh water was brought to the island by barge for the staff during the storm. They determined that Luna had survived by eating dead fish and rodents.
Because her owner, a commercial fisherman and student at San Diego State University, was away on a fishing trip, he sent his best friend, Conner Lamb, to meet Luna's plane. When the plane doors opened, she leapt into Lamb's arms and he fought back tears. On her first night home, he made her a steak for dinner.
The commanding officer of the base sent Luna home with a keepsake of her time spent on the island: her own set of military dog tags. They are engraved with her name, the dates she was missing, and "Keep the faith."