No Chicken, This Dog

From a Gazette edition of July, 1956:

About twenty-two miles south-southwest of Noman’s Land in the heaving swells of the open ocean, something of a miracle occurred on Thursday of last week. A wire-haired fox terrier, only part of his muzzle visible, was sighted and picked up by the ketch-rigged motor sailer Seer, owned by Harry Bellas Hess, well known in these waters.

Last night, dog and owner, Capt. Forrest J. Hoxsie, were re-united in an affecting meeting at the Foote Memorial Shelter in Edgartown.

The dog, as it turned out, is the pet and mascot of the Block Island dragger William Cheseboro. Somehow or other he had fallen or been lurched into the sea, apparently two or three hours before his rescue, and as soon as the crew of the Cheseboro missed him, the dragger was turned back and spent an hour circling in a fruitless search. Finally, concluding that a shark must have accounted for the small swimmer —if, indeed, the dog had managed to keep afloat — the dragger crew reluctantly resumed its outward course to the fishing grounds. There were hundreds of mako sharks in the region.

All this became known later, but all that Mr. Hess, Capt. Frank Cyganowski, and the other men of the Seer knew at the time was the amazing appearance of a wire-haired fox terrier in the ocean, no vessel in sight, with a cod-line for a collar and two chicken legs fastened to it — a standard device for breaking dogs of the habit of killing chickens.

If there was ever a mystery at sea, this was one. And if there ever was a series of chances so rare as to be accounted miraculous or even a sort of divine intervention, this was an example.

Aboard the Seer, Charles R. Stephens, always noted for keen eyes at the masthead, had sighted a swordfish way off the port bow. The vessel ran up on the fish, and Mr. Hess successfully harpooned him. Then the swordfish, a big one, towed the keg so fast that Captain Cyganowski told Charlie Stephens to take the wheel and follow the fish while the captain himself and the steward, Joe Ginalski, were aft getting the dory over.

In due course the dory went off to pick up the fish and then, instead of coming up on the starboard side as is almost invariably done, Captain Cyganowski came up on the port side. Why this change from custom? Just chance. But if the dory had come up on the starboard side, the captain would not have seen the dog.

As it was, Charlie looked over the side, and there was the dory, Captain Cyganowski pointing at something in the water. This something was the muzzle of the swimming terrier. When the swells rose exactly right, the captain plucked the dog from the water. The dog could not have had abler or more devoted rescuers.

All the narrow chances required for the rescue were fulfilled. If a single one had turned out a little differently, the outcome likewise would have been different. One of the narrowest margins of all must have been that of time, since the dog had been swimming so long in the sea.

Aboard the Seer, Mr. Hess and Joe Ginalski, the steward, began giving the best emergency care they could. Their ministrations were so successful that soon the dog was in good shape and settling into a sleep until the Seer made Noman’s again.

Captain Cyganowski was sure from the beginning that the dog had fallen overboard from another vessel, and the rescue was reported over short wave. In this way the news reached the Cheseboro, to the relief and pleasure of the captain and crew, who planned at once to make Edgartown as soon as the current dragging had been completed.

Meantime the dog, still with the cod-line collar but without the chicken legs, was taken home to Edgartown by Charlie Stephens, which was a happy development for him, both Mr. and Mrs. Stephens being dog-lovers from way back. When they brought their charge for a call at the Gazette office, he was alert, friendly and as hale as any wire-haired fox terrier who has never been lost in the open ocean. He liked it, too, when he was taken to the shelter of the Foote Memorial, to wait in the care of Dr. W.D. Jones and George Jackson for the arrival of the Cheseboro and his original shipmates.

At the shelter the dog received photographers and interviewers. Apparently what he had to say, if translated into human language, would have been something like this: “Aw, it wasn’t anything. One thing you can say: those guys on the Seer are tops — Mr. Hess, Captain Frank, Charlie Stephens and Joe Ginalski. They’re heroes and gentlemen in my book.”

The Cheseboro arrived at Menemsha and Captain Hoxsie made a bee line for the shelter and the dog. The captain explained to Dr. Jones that the dog usually sleeps in the wheelhouse of the dragger, and for that reason was not missed at once. Captain Hoxsie gave the dog quite a greeting and the dog did the same for the captain.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner