A woman who was lost at sea for more than five months credited two dogs, Zeus and Valentine, for keeping spirits up when all hope was lost, the Associated Press reports.
Dressed in brightly-colored life jackets, Zeus and Valentine paced across the sailboat, wagging their tails and barking loudly as the U.S. Navy rescuers greeted their owners’ small sailboat 900 miles southeast of Japan on Wednesday, shown in a U.S. Navy video.
Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava, both from Honolulu, and their two dogs set sail from Hawaii to Tahiti on May 3, according to a U.S. Navy Press release. Their sailboat went off course on May 30 when their engine died during a storm.
Appel and Fuiava told the U.S. Navy they tried to send out two distress calls a day for 98 straight days, but were never close enough for the calls to go through.
Their boat was spotted on Tuesday by a nearby fishing vessel that contacted the U.S. Coast Guard, who helped coordinate the rescue mission with other emergency officials, according to the press release.
The two women said they survived by bringing water purifiers and over a year’s worth of food on board, mostly pasta and breads, the press release said.
“It was very depressing and very hopeless, but it’s the only thing you can do, so you do what you can do,” Appel told the Associated Press.
Appel said one night their boat was attacked by sharks and they had to keep the dogs below deck and hush their barking, according to a TODAY interview.
"Both of them, we actually thought it was lights out, and they were horrific," Appel told the Associated Press.
Appel called their dogs “companion animals for keeping” their spirits up all that time.
"There is a true humility to wondering if today is your last day, if tonight is your last night," she told the Associated Press.
A commenter on the USS Ashland’s Facebook page said it’s “almost unheard of” to have two dogs aboard Navy vessels and Zeus and Valentine are probably popular crew members as they sail back to safety.