​After 5 Months Lost at Sea, These Women Credit Their Dogs with Their Survival

The Navy rescued them, but their dogs kept them afloat.

Jennifer Appel, Tasha Fuiaba, and their dogs Valentine and Zeus embarked on a 2,700 mile journey from Hawaii to Tahiti in late spring of this year. But the brave crew promptly sailed into misfortune when, on May 30, their ship's engine failed in turbulent weather.

Armed with a water purifier and a year's supply of dry goods, the two women decided to continue their course, sails out. More trouble befell them when their mast snapped and they lost course.

When they were found five months later, the group had drifted 900 miles southeast of Japan (opens in new tab)—more than 5,000 miles from their destination.

Soon after their ship was damaged, Appel and Fuiaba began sending out distress signals, huddling with their dogs in the cabin so as not to be detected by sharks (opens in new tab). Twice they were accosted by the curious predators, which attacked the boat's hull. "We actually thought it was lights out, and they [the sharks] were horrific. We were just incredibly lucky that our hull was strong enough to withstand the onslaught," Appel says (opens in new tab).

The women were eventually spotted by a Taiwanese fishing vessel, which alerted the coast guart. The USS Ashland arrived early the following day for a rescue.

Appel's mother describes her daughter (opens in new tab) as "resourceful" and "strong-willed," a person "doesn't wait for the repairman." Clearly these were qualities that helped Appel survive the physical challenges, but it was Valentine and Zeus that proved crucial to the women's emotional wellbeing.

Footage of their rescue, which was released by the Navy, shows the women in a state of joyful relief, as they and their dogs greet their saviors. The dogs wore bright yellow life vests, and seem healthy and well-cared for.

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“There is a true humility to wondering if today is your last day, if tonight is your last night," Appel said. Asked if she regretted her decision, she answered, "Well, you gotta die sometime. You may as well be doing something you enjoy when you're doing it."

An faithful and optimistic companion might help too.