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Lucky dog earns his sea legs

San Franciscans Jerry and Darla Merrow were adrift in the Pacific Ocean aboard their 48-foot catamaran for three monthswith Snickers, their cocker spaniel puppy, and Gulliver, their macaw.

Some 1,200 miles from their departure in Moss Landing, Calif., they ran into a four-day storm that brought 40-knot winds and high seas, according to the West Coast sailing magazine Latitude 38. During the storm they lost their autopilot, tore their mainsail and their engine was swamped with seawater.

Well-provisioned, with a watermaker, wind generator and solar panels, they had charted a course for Hawaii, but ran aground on a reef some 200 yards from the coral atoll of Fanning Island, about 1,000 miles from Hawaii in December, according to the Miami Herald.

The Merrows swam ashore with their pets. Shortly after some calls for assistance, a cargo ship crew offered to take the couple back to Hawaii,

but refused to take the dog and bird. So the couple left the animals in the care of Robby Coleman, who sails his own boat off the island, according to various news reports.

News of the adventure and the plight of the animals spread across news wires. Las Vegas resident Jack Joslin read a report and decided to help and contacted the Hawaii Humane Society, he told USA Today.

Snickers the dog was rescued April 9 by a Norwegian Cruise Line crew working with the Humane Society, and returned to Hawaii. After quarantine, the dog was flown for free by Hawaiian Airlines to Los Angeles, where Joslin picked him up Sunday and returned him to his new home in Las Vegas, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.

Gulliver, being an endangered bird, cannot be returned to Hawaii because of customs regulations. Los Angeles is one of the few ports that accepts exotic birds, but the previous owners never registered the bird, according to reports.

“There’s just a lot of red tape,” Joslin told the Advertiser, adding that he is now working on adopting Gulliver.

— Elizabeth Ellis and Richard Armstrong