Truth behind tale of the dog on a log

Owner Ben Ngawaka says Tiny is 'definitely' a sea dog.
Owner Ben Ngawaka says Tiny is 'definitely' a sea dog.
The owner of a world-famous dog found floating on a log near Great Barrier Island this week has spoken - and this fishy dog's tale is not all it seemed.

Contrary to the New Zealand Defence Force version of the rescue, Tiny the dog was not washed out to sea in a recent weather bomb.

The Defence Force released images of the dog floating on a semi-submerged tree trunk with an account of a heartwarming rescue by members of navy patrol vessel HMNZS Hawea.

"There was significant debris in the water and on one large log floating in the water was this poor helpless dog. I would hate to think how long he was there," commanding officer Lieutenant Anthony Norris said.

The truth turns out to be less derring-do and more of a typical day in the islands.

The dog's owner, 20-year-old crayfisherman Ben Ngawaka, yesterday told the Herald on Sunday that Thursday's saga began when he took his boat from his isolated Rangiahua Island home to the nearest store at Port Fitzroy on Great Barrier.

"Tiny's always on the boat - everywhere the boat goes, he goes," he said. "He's a sea dog, definitely."

Travelling slowly to avoid storm debris littering the water, Ngawaka stopped to inspect a large floating log he thought might come in handy for building and boat repairs.

He decided to pick it up on the way back and continued to Port Fitzroy.

"I had a little look for [Tiny] when I got to Fitzroy and couldn't find him. I realised, 'oh, my dog must have got off on that log'.

"He must have thought that when we stopped, we were parking on the shore and jumped off."

Ngawaka wasn't too concerned, knowing Tiny would sit tight until he returned.

"He's pretty smart. I knew he wouldn't try to get off and swim somewhere, he'd be all right."

Ngawaka went on with his shopping and returned to the spot two or three hours later.

He found a huge navy vessel where he thought Tiny would be.

"They just asked if he was my dog and I said it was so they gave him back to me," he said.

He also tied Tiny's tree-trunk liferaft to the back of his boat and towed it home.

"It was a good kauri log," Ngawaka said.

After a good feed and a long sleep, Tiny was back to his old self.

"He's fine, he's most probably forgotten the whole thing by now."

But he shouldn't expect any extra attention despite his ordeal.

"He only gets cuddles from the kids or if he catches a pig," Ngawaka said.

Getting close to eight years old, Tiny is a "semi-retired" pig dog who loves living on the tranquil island with its 15 or so inhabitants.

"He pretty much takes it easy most of the time these days."

The community was still recovering from the fierce storm this week, which sank two boats on the island and caused numerous slips on Great Barrier, many of which are yet to be cleared.

The story of the "dog on the log" has gone viral online. A Herald article was viewed more than 200,000 times and shared on Facebook about 6,500 times.
It has also appeared on Britain's Daily Mail website, America's Fox News and Australia's Nine News.

Ngawaka was amused to hear how popular the story about his dog had become, but not entirely surprised.

"How often do you find a dog floating on a log in the middle of the ocean?"

A Navy spokeswoman admitted assumptions had been made about the dog being swept out as part of the recent storm.

"Information provided by the Herald on Sunday suggests the dog had been missing for two to three hours.

"We regret this aspect of our release was incorrect, and are glad that the dog is safe and reunited with its owner."

- by Matthew Theunissen, Herald on Sunday

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