Puppy found alive on beach after fishing boat capsizes off Sitkalidak Island

Petty Officer Rafael Aguero recovers 8-month old puppy Grace. (Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

The fishing vessel Laura, a 93-foot trawler based out of Kodiak, capsized Monday morning after striking rocks near Sitkalidak Island. The four-person crew safely boarded a life raft. But their puppy, Grace — an eight-month-old, 80-pound lab mix — jumped into the freezing water and was presumed lost.

A Coast Guard UH-60 swept a five-mile area with no luck before turning back to nearby Air Station Kodiak to return the crew to dry land.

The next day, another Coast Guard helicopter crew searched the area for evidence of a fuel spill from the F/V Laura — but they still held a shred of hope that Grace might still be alive. And there she was, on a nearby beach.

Petty Officer Rafael Aguero, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer, went and got her. He says Grace was on “a narrow beach with about 20- to 40-foot cliffs all around her.”

“I was able to find a way to sort of scramble down that cliff to grab her,” Aguero said. “She was definitely in a little bit of a shock. Definitely hypothermic. So I looked up to her, and I knew she was going to be okay. She wagged her tail a little bit. And then I went, picked her up and scrambled back up the cliffs back to the helicopter.”

Aguero and his crew were amazed to find her unharmed.

“To go through those conditions and spend 36 hours alone in the wilderness like that on the beach with the cold, and she was otherwise okay, from what I can tell. But it’s absolutely incredible that we found that dog,” he said.

Grace was reunited with her owner at Air Station Kodiak around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. And she’s doing just fine.

The ship hasn’t fared as well. The wreck is still on the rocks, and according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, a five-mile oil sheen has been sighted about a mile from where it hit the rocks.

Spill responders say they are monitoring the situation. The vessel’s owner estimates there were about 3,000 gallons of diesel aboard.

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