100 People, 2 Helicopters Hunt for Very Special Dog

Flint, a rat-sniffer, got lost on an uninhabited island near New Zealand
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2019 12:00 PM CST
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In this undated photo released by New Zealand Department of Conservation, Flint, the rat-detecting dog and its handler Richard Johnston ride on a boat near the Tennyson Inlet Islands in New Zealand.   (New Zealand Department of Conservation via AP)

If Flint ever wondered, he can't now: People love the heck out of him. The Jack Russell-fox terrier got lost Wednesday on an island between New Zealand and Antarctica and triggered two rescue missions—one lasting seven hours, the AP reports. The rat-sniffing canine, aged about 5, was on uninhabited Campbell Island as part of a project involving some 100 weather officials, troops, and conservation rangers. Their goal was to remove rats and other creatures that might prey on the island's endangered birds. But a bellowing sea lion scared Flint and he darted off. Whistling and calling didn't coax him back, and worse, he was wearing a muzzle that prevented him from attacking the birds. That also meant he couldn't eat and possibly couldn't drink, either.

With time running out, ground crews and a military helicopter searched for seven hours. They gave up at 11pm Wednesday and, with other factors weighing on them—like nasty weather and a Navy ship with mechanical problems—bit the bullet and left the island. "While it was heart-breaking, the safety of all those aboard ... needed to be the first priority," says a conservation official, per RNZ. But while the ship returned to New Zealand, a helicopter crew on the mainland mounted a fresh mission and flew over 400 miles to the island—where, two days after he had first bolted, Flint was waiting at the base. "He was in very good spirits," says another official. "We gave him some more food and he wolfed that down. He looks healthy, he looks happy and pleased to be home." (More dog stories.)

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