Something about a lost dog on an abandoned ship in the Pacific gripped people's imaginations. Money poured into the Humane Society to fund a rescue. One check was for $5,000.
Donations eventually arrived from 39 states, the District of Columbia and four foreign countries.
"It was just about a dog," Pamela Burns, president of the Hawaiian Humane Society, told me. "This was an opportunity for people to feel good about rescuing a dog. People poured out their support. A handful of people were incensed. These people said, 'You should be giving money to the homeless.'" But Burns thought the great thing about America was that people were free to give money to whatever cause they cared about, and people cared about Hokget.
The problem with a rescue was that no one knew where the Insiko was. The Coast Guard estimated it could be anywhere in an area measuring 360,000 square miles. The Humane Society paid $48,000 to a private company called American Marine to look for the ship. Two Humane Society officers boarded a salvage tugboat, the American Quest, and set off into the Pacific.
Air, sea and high-tech surveillance equipment were all pressed into service. With each passing day, the calls from around the world intensified: Had Hokget been found?
Under the guise of exercises, the U.S. Navy began quietly hunting for the Insiko -- the tramp tanker was deemed a search target for a maintenance and training mission. By April 7, the search had turned up nothing, but the letters and checks continued to pour in.
Eight years before the Hokget saga began, the same world that showed extraordinary compassion for a dog sat on its hands as hundreds of thousands of human beings were killed in the Rwandan genocide.
Monday, January 18
Named Hokget (or 福吉 Fúqí) in Mandarin.