How do you write a nearly 300 page book about a dog’s adventures that no one was around to witness? Well, journalist Emma Pearse did it by creating extensive backstory and filling in the rest with speculation.
Her book, Sophie: The Incredible True Story of the Castaway Dog, tells the amazing story of an Australia cattle dog who went missing from the deck of her people’s boat off the coast of Queensland, Australia. After being given up for lost, Sophie was found alive and well nearly six months later on an island at least five nautical miles from where she went missing.
Half of Pearse’s book tries to recreate Sophie’s path after talking to island dwellers who spotted signs of her and guessing what her most likely path had been. But the first half of the book introduces us to the Griffith family and their relationship with Sophie.
Evolving Dog Owners
Some people are born loving animals. They “just know” how to view the world through a dog’s eyes. And others of us need to learn. The Griffiths needed some schooling.
The Griffiths believed that dogs belonged outdoors. They certainly didn’t travel with dogs. One gets the feeling that after bringing Sophie home from the pet store, they were surprised at how she became a real part of the family.
The Griffiths had loved all their dogs. But Sophie was the first dog who earned the right to sleep in the house. And she was the first dog they took on their boat.
I believe, however, that their belief that a “dog is just a dog” prevented them from finding Sophie sooner. And caused them incredible cognitive dissonance that resulted in terrible suffering.
Missing – Your Worst Nightmare
The Griffiths did not see Sophie go overboard. When they discovered she was missing, they immediately started circling the area and calling her name while realizing the dog could have hit her head going over the side or already have become a meal for one of the Coral Sea’s giant predators.
What they didn’t do was get on the radio to ask other boats in the area to be on the lookout. And they didn’t tell most of their friends what had happened.
My speculation is that they didn’t feel anyone else would understand their deep sorrow at losing Sophie. After all, she was just a dog. The Griffiths had fallen in love with Sophie. But they didn’t know enough “dog people” to realize that they weren’t alone. And that they could have gotten help searching for Sophie or even just comforting them for their loss.
For me, reading about the Griffith’s sense of shame and grief over losing Sophie while recognizing they could have gotten help was the saddest part of the book.
They were absolutely right that the odds of Sophie surviving miles from the nearest land in rough waters filled with sharks were slim. But they should never have had to face such a horrible event alone.
How Did It Turn Out?
You’ll have to visit my review at A Traveler’s Library to be filled in on Sophie’s adventures. Needless to say, I have no interest in writing about puppy snuff books so you can rest assured Sophie returned home with not a scratch on her. Her vet was quoted as saying, “Sophie hasn’t been castaway. She’s been on an island vacation.”
You may remember the press stories when Sophie was found. Many of them got out of hand with mistaken coverage reporting that Sophie survived island life by eating koala bears on a protected nature preserve. For you Americans, imagine if a pit bull was found devouring baby bald eagles while pooping on the flag and you have a taste of the furor that arose.
Sophie is not the kind of book I usually enjoy. But I give nonfiction a little more slack than fiction. After all, even if I don’t enjoy the writing style, I’ll probably learn something. And I did.
I learned that
- I definitely want to explore the Australia coast,
- it’s not stupid that I make my dog wear a life jacket,
- and having the support of other people who love dogs makes nearly everything better.
Maybe you’ll learn something too.
I’m giving away my copy of Sophie: The Incredible True Story of the Castaway Dog to one lucky reader. Use the rafflecopter below to make your entry.
But first, take a peak at Sophie in this news report. See, she really is alive and well.
Disclosures: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. If you buy a copy of the book through the Amazon affiliate link above I’ll make a few cents which will go promptly to my web host so Something Wagging can remain live. Oh, and thank you.
a Rafflecopter giveaway