No Better Friend: One Man, One Dog, and Their Extraordinary Story

Excerpt
By Robert Weintraub, February 2016

[Excerpt: After a POW ship was torpedoed.]

In reality, Judy had proved to be unsinkable.

The last time Frank had seen her was when he shoved the pointer out of the porthole. According to various witnesses, Judy fell into the sea and popped up, stunned but alive. After that she began to swim strongly, head well above the water, perhaps thankful that the Malacca Strait was far more comfortable for a dip than the Yangtze River had been. Searle caught sight of her straightway, seeing a man with his arm wrapped around Judy’s shoulder, struggling to keep his head above the waves. “Why don’t you shake him off, you crazy bitch?” he yelled out, as much to himself as to Judy, for she was too far away to hear him over the cacophony of the sinking. Surely she would be drowned by the weight of the the man.

But she wasn’t. She guided the man to a large piece of f loating debris, where he managed to haul himself up, exhausted by alive. Judy then stayed in the water, looking for others to help. And help she did. No fewer than four men were seen and said later to have been rescued by Judy, and there may have been more beyond that. In each case, the method of operation was the same. The men reported thrashing about, either not able to swim or too beaten down by imprisonment and the shock of the sinking to muster the energy to save themselves. Out of the blue appeared Judy, acting like the aquatic version of a Saint Bernard. All that was missing was a life preserver around her neck.

The men would hang on to the swimming pointer, who would pull them either to flotsam or to the rescue ships that had begun to appear. Each time she approached one of the vessels, hands reached out to pull her from the water. Each time she pulled away from them to stay in the ocean and continue her rescue efforts.

When at last there were no more men alive in her vicinity, she allowed herself to be pulled into a boat. “She was more dead than alive,” recalled one of the men who witnessed her coming on board. “She had totally given herself to the drowning men.”

For more see our review of the book, No Better Friend and an interview with its author, Robert Weintraub.