Satya has ceased publication. This website is maintained for informational purposes only.

To learn more about the upcoming Special Edition of Satya and Call for Submissions, click here.

back issues


June/July 2002
A Dog’s Worth

By Lawrence Carter-Long


Americans love melodrama, as media coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial, Monica-gate and the Enron disaster illustrate, but throughout April 2002 an international soap opera of a different sort gained its fair share of attention in newspapers and on airwaves around the world.

At first glance, the tale may seem familiar. The primary focal point centered on the one who was left behind, while juicy subplots sailed between a corpse, denials of responsibility and allegations of money mismanagement.

But this wasn’t another political scandal, it wasn’t even a Lifetime movie of the week.

This was the tale of Hokget, a little dog who got lost at sea.

Hokget’s saga began on March 13 when an engine-room fire aboard the Indonesian tanker Insiko 1907 caused the death of one crew member and wiped out the vessel’s power and communications. The wounded tanker then began drifting with more than 60,000 gallons of diesel fuel aboard. The Insiko’s Captain Chung Chin Po and nine crew members drifted for 20 days before they were rescued by the crew of the Norwegian Star cruise ship.

Normally, the rescue of the Captain and his crew would be the end of the story. However, questions soon surfaced casting doubt upon the heroic efforts of the Norwegian Star’s crew. Initial news reports charged that Captain Po was told he could not bring the two year-old female dog he’d raised aboard the Insiko on the cruise ship when the troubled tanker’s human survivors were rescued.
“Their priority was to get the injured crew on the ship,” said Steve Hirano, of Pacific Management Consultants, which runs the cruise line. “There were rumors later of a dog, but by then the ship was already on its way to Hawaii. Because of the weather and rough seas at the time, they had to consider the safety of the crew and decided not to go back.”

Soon the Hawaiian Humane Society launched a massive effort to do what the Norwegian Star either would or could not. Bolstered by $50,000 in donations and support from the Humane Society of the U.S. they enlisted the aid of American Marine Services, which sent out a rescue crew on their own American Quest—a salvage tugboat—along with a Hawaiian Humane Society investigator and a veterinary specialist, with five crew members, dog food, medical supplies and a kennel for, no, not a three-hour tour, but rather a five day mission to bring Hokget safely back to shore.

“We’ve boarded burning ships and sinking ships and even sunk some ships on purpose with explosives,” Rusty Nall, vice president of American Marine Services, commented at the time. “The weather looks good, so this should be no problem.”

Despite having the perfect name for a nautical adventurer, Rusty’s enthusiasm failed to get the job done. On April 7, after taking the tugboat out several hundred nautical miles southwest of Hawaii’s Big Island and searching more than a thousand square miles of ocean, the search team concluded the ill-fated Insiko, the deceased crew member left on board and Hokget had sadly capsized, along with their hopes for recovery.

As tension and attention grew, a tidal wave of publicity flooded the media while pundits and reporters alike marveled at the efforts to save Captain Po’s canine companion and the cost of the failed operation.

Jaymes Song of the Associated Press wrote, “An almost comically ineffectual effort to rescue a dog stranded on a tanker adrift in the Pacific has people in Hawaii and beyond asking: What is a dog’s life really worth? The extraordinary operation to save two year-old [Hokget] has cost $48,000 in private funds, and the Coast Guard is prepared to spend government money on what has become one of the most expensive animal rescues.”

A week following the end of the initial American Quest mission, a Japanese fishing boat spotted the tanker, but the dog’s condition remained a mystery until a Coast Guard plane later saw the dog running back and forth across the boat’s bridge.

That’s right, despite overwhelming odds, Hokget had survived.

Would-be rescuers eventually arrived at the boat and tried to feed Hokget, who had lived on the tanker since she was eight weeks old, but the perplexed pooch high-tailed it from rescuers and hid below deck. For two more days fishermen tried to tempt the dog with peanut butter to no avail.

Fears persisted that the tanker would cause an environmental disaster if it sank, but the U.S. Coast Guard could not get involved because the boat was still drifting in waters outside U.S. jurisdiction.

Thankfully, the Insiko eventually drifted into U.S. territorial waters and the Coast Guard opted to treat the 256-foot ship and its 60,000 gallons of diesel fuel and lubricating oil as a hazard to marine life, thus giving Hokget another chance.

After initial disappointment, a Coast Guard plane spotted the Insiko. It had been 18 days since her human companions were rescued on April 2 and, despite her aversion to peanut butter, Hokget was sure to be one very hungry puppy.

The crew dropped all the food they had available—mostly pizza and granola bars—and six days later, rescuers climbed aboard the Insiko, and, after 24 days stranded alone at sea, finally rescued Hokget, whose name, by the way, means fortune and happiness in Taiwanese.

Pamela Burns of the Hawaiian Humane Society summed up her feelings about the rescue by saying, “On this day, the power of the compassion in people’s hearts overcame the great ocean that kept Hokget lost for so long.”

Despite bad weather, bad luck and naysayers every step of the way, Hokget—true to her name—has found a new life and following a brief quarantine period in Hawaii; will most likely remain with a friend of Captain Po. The Captain, it seems, was exported back to Taiwan before the dog was rescued.

In the end, the melodrama of Hokget offers us more than the possibility of seeing her on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (which is being planned). The saga reminds us that while dogs are often called man’s best friend, humankind has seldom treated canine-kind with the same care and respect they usually grant us. The friendships that matter most are also the most reciprocal—and for good reason.

For all the dogs who have selflessly rescued humans from burning buildings, collapsed caves and theft by bullies and bugaboos, this time the two-leggeds got one right. For all the dogs who remained steadfastly loyal long after their human caregiver had passed away, you, too, are not forgotten. To all the canines left alone in backyards and on the street, humankind should bow our collective heads and beg forgiveness for our selfish nature.

How much is a dog’s life worth?
We might as well ask: What is friendship worth? What is the value of compassion? The true answers to those questions have nothing to do with money—and never did.

Lawrence Carter-Long
has over a decade of experience in activism. A former “poster child” for cerebral palsy research and the United Fund, Lawrence has made numerous media appearances in support of animal rights, and is also an authority on disability issues and communications techniques. He works for the Sacramento-based Animal Protection Institute (


All contents are copyrighted. Click here to learn about reprinting text or images that appear on this site.